At some point during an action/adventure/thriller flick, the audience is forced to make a choice about the suspension of disbelief. If the film in question is either a strict, but smartly written procedural or an over-the-top fantasy, such decisions are easy. Think the impudent hyperbole of 24 or the taut psychological games of BREACH. Alas, SHOOTER falls into a dismal middle ground where plot holes loom large and coherence is confused with having things blow up with an energy level going through the terminal stages of entropy. I have not read the book on which SHOOTER is based, but with only the film by which to judge it, a hack book has been made into an equally hack movie. This is RAMBO with less pomposity and better acting. Mostly.
Most of that mostly is Mark Wahlberg, the titular gunman. He is an actor with a palpable intensity, biceps that can best be described as compelling, and charisma by the bucketful, even when dressed as a yeti (don’t ask). This serves him in good stead as Bob Lee Swagger, an ex-Marine and still a crack marksman with a weakness for serving his country. While his last mission went bad, during it he managed to bring down a helicopter that was bearing down on him and his partner with its guns blazing. He didn’t save the partner, who was also, of course, his best pal, and this is why three years later he is living on a mountain top in
There are many other reasons to be surprised, such as the cop who can’t take down Swagger at point-blank range, or the way Swagger can take two non-fatal bullets and still outrun the authorities, even taking down an FBI agent while making good his escape. That would be Nick Memphis (Michael Pena), a rookie three weeks out of the Academy who finds himself on the receiving end of Swagger’s story about being framed as he’s being cuffed with his own handcuffs and left to watch Swagger get away in his government-issue car. His boss thinks he’s a screw-up, but
Before you can say road trip, Swagger and
Things blow up, cars crash, and helicopters swarm in a repeating motif as Swagger does the impossible without ever breaking a sweat on his uber-toned musculature. That’s pretty much the story until we arrive at the talky and painfully obvious denouement. And then another. And finally a third, equally talky denouement that is positively besotted with stating the obvious yet again as though it were a revelation. If it weren’t for Wahlberg’s focused slow burn, Pena’s chipper stab at derring-do, and an eccentric turn by Levon Helm as an unhinged ballistics expert and conspiracy maven, this would be a total loss. As it is, SHOOTER is a waste of time and talent that is afraid to either make sense, or to wallow in its excesses.