Remember when Antoine Fuqua had just directed the Oscar-winning Training Day (2001) and looked to be hot property in Hollywood? Five years and two major blockbuster flops (the turgid Bruce Willis war movie Tears of the Sun in 2003 and dull historical epic King Arthur in 2004) later, he is still failing to find any kind of form to replicate that success. Shooter borrows from just about every wrongly accused man on the run story there has ever been for a Mark Wahlberg action walkthrough.
Wahlberg is the cringe-worthily named Bob Lee Swagger, one of the best snipers in the world. Retired from the army after his best friend and scout was killed on a top secret mission, he is asked to help the American government foil an assassination attempt on the President. On the day of the potential shooting, he is set up as the killer but escapes after being shot in the arm. On his way into hiding, Swagger bumps into rookie FBI agent Nick Memphis (Michael Pena) and gives him the suggestion that he was framed. As Swagger seeks help from his former partner’s girlfriend Sarah (Kate Mara), Memphis starts to uncover clues about the real culprits. Question is, will they be able to link up before a high profile manhunt tracks down Swagger?
You wouldn’t need a sniper to take out the plot holes and coincidences in this film — they are all blatantly out in the open, basking in all their glory without the threat of a decent scriptwriter’s edit for miles.
If it didn’t sound dull reading that, watching Shooter certainly is. Although based on Stephen Hunter’s novel Point of Impact, it is hard to see why this adaptation was needed. Shooter plays out little better than an average TV movie with a decent budget as Swagger somehow eludes the law with two bullets in his body, applies a little DIY first aid and then finds Sarah who just so happens to be a trained nurse. Who would have thought it, eh? Patched up, he goes about plotting how to clear his name by finding Nick, making them into a typical mismatched team: Swagger the no-nonsense killer who rarely strays from talking all army like and Nick the bumbling FBI guy who is not always the biggest help, but vital for Swagger to clear his name. You wouldn’t need a sniper to take out the plot holes and coincidences in this film — they are all blatantly out in the open, basking in all their glory without the threat of a decent scriptwriter’s edit for miles. A comically gravel-voiced Danny Glover is Colonel Isaac Johnson, the man in charge of seeing Swagger go down, is left to ensure it seems like he is doing everything he can to stop his own undoing yet gives the impression he only half-heartedly cares whether he takes the rap.
As Shooter ambles through a few action scenes to its obvious end, it is hard to understand where Fuqua’s skills at capturing tense situations so evident in Training Day have gone. Actually, it’s quite hard to see any skill at all away from the action scenes which bring Shooter to life between all the conspiracy nonsense. There are a few nods to the post-9/11 atmosphere in America which are tacked on rather than explored fully in an attempt to raise debate to really give it the feel that no one was really enthralled by the project. Perhaps they realised it was just a substandard Bourne Identity that would be forgotten in a month or so. It is a shame for Wahlberg given his recent Oscar nomination, but no less than what was expected after Fuqua’s stunning drop in form.