Screenwriter: Jonathan Lemkin, Stephen Hunter (novel)
Runtime: 124 min
Release date: Out Now
For those whose cinematic thirst can only be quenched by the 80s action flicks Stallone and Schwarzenegger don’t make anymore, director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, King Arthur) is offering up an ice cool glass of dumb in the form of Shooter. Mark Whalberg plays the amusingly named Bob Lee Swagger, a disaffected former marine sniper now living with his dog in the wilderness and is recruited to help stop a Presidential assassination by Colonel Isaac Johnson (Danny Glover). Twenty minutes after an intelligent audience has the whole thing figured out, Swagger finally clicks that he is being set up to take the fall for a real assassination. After recruiting the services of shamed FBI Agent Nick Memphis (Michael Pena), Swagger makes like Rambo and enacts revenge on those who tried to kill and frame him.
An extremely liberal film, Shooter unfortunately has very little to say about real world issues. Instead it spends most of the time in the company of the monotone Swagger whose copy of the 9-11 Commission Report lingers within frame in the opening of the film. If we’re not with him, Shooter focuses on the cackling bad guys drinking wine and eating biscuits, giggling over photos of mass murder and proclaiming, “we’re only in Iraq for the oil!” It’s all extremely silly, and with no characters to root for all that’s left is some well shot car chases and explosions. Fuqua has a great eye for these visceral sequences and draws tension from presenting the tactics of a trained marksman, but with no plot to hang it around it’s an empty experience. Even Mark Whalberg who can be good when he tries, seems bored by the events.
Ultimately, it is the shadow of contemporary thrillers that falls hard over Shooter. It doesn’t manage to capture the excitement of the conspiracy twist narrative nor the myriad complications of real-world institutional corruption present in the Bourne films and televisions’ 24. It’s po faced seriousness is at odds with ridiculous scenes featuring Danny Glover, struggling to keep his dentures in, gloating “I win, you lose” in front of the government officials desperate to bring him to justice (erm, didn’t he just confess?) Shooter is at once too serious and too stupid to be worth anyone’s time and is destined for the bargain bin next to the Steven Seagal films Fuqua so obviously adores.