SHOOTER (2007)

July 7, 2007

Shooter review


Matt: Two and a half stars

Film length: 124min


Yesterday was about honor. Today is about justice.

Review by Matt:

This action film stars Mark Wahlberg as John Lee Swagger, an elite marksman abandoned by his country. After a disastrous mission in Ethiopia which saw his best friend killed, Swagger retires from snipering to an isolated mountain cabin. He spends his time reading the 9/11 Commission Report, surfing the splendid social change website “Znet“, and nurturing a growing mistrust of the government. Opportunity to manifest this mistrust comes his way when a mysterious Colonel (Danny Glover) arrives and asks Swagger to help defend the President from an expected assassination plot. Swagger’s lingering sense of honour convinces him to assist and, of course, he is framed for murder. Now he’s really mad.

At the visual level, the film is pretty good. It’s big, explosive, and fast paced. Mark Wahlberg acts well as the angry and focussed Swagger. He even kisses his mountain-dog with the passion that only a wounded and withdrawn sniper could. Danny Glover appears to have developed emphysema and can only whisper his lines hoarsely. The others are bearable, apart from the comically sneering assistant-villains. No-one is helped by the structure of the film, which is a bit floppy. In particular, the subplots flap around, loose and underdeveloped. Key parts of the film – particularly the assassination – are also put together poorly so that they are unnecessarily confusing.

It wasn’t these things that troubled me though. I had high hopes for Shooter. At a basic level I’m still pleased that it shows us a reflection of immoral power with a level of cynicism that we don’t often see in this type of film. The amoral conspiracies of the powerful are given to mainstream moviegoers as the reality. Blood for oil, profits over people, malign foreign policy- it’s there on the screen and it signals that these concepts are creeping into the zeitgeist. And there are other enjoyable aspects. The vibes of anti-government sentiment are enticing and encouraging. There’s also some good action, some good intrigue, and some good twists. Our antihero holds a gratifying mistrust and derision for authority.

Tragically though, Shooter is a disappointing film because it deals with these important issues in an offensive way. It ends up asking us to identify with destructive feelings – violence, revenge, thoughtlessness. It may fool you for a while, but overall the film lacks intelligence and subtlety; it becomes more and more Ramboesque-ridiculous as it progresses. I don’t want to spoil the plot by going into detail, but if you watch until the end – and particularly at the end – you’ll see the narrowness with which it approached this interesting topic. Swagger sees and understands the corruption, but he tackles it violently, carelessly, vengefully, and alone. It seems he didn’t really read that Znet site carefully at all.

It could have been so much better. It’s as if The Constant Gardener was poisoned by Rambo so that, by the end, it could only limp along sickly, confused and talking silly.


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