Film review by: Witney Seibold
This is a really stupid film. No two ways about it. Just really stupid. It’s a film that tries really hard to have some serious political commentary about a global economy, but is really just a violent revenge flick whose story is just barely keeping itself cogent enough to be understood.
Mark Walhberg plays a character named Bob Lee Swagger (I guess “Jack Anger Killman” was taken) who is the world’s best sharpshooter. He never misses. He’s like Bullseye from “Daredevil.” He is seen, in a prologue, taking aim at a motorcade somewhere in
Africa (it’s never said where, although
Africa is frickin’ huge). He is with his partner (Lane Garrison)– there to help him calculate windspeed – who does the one thing that no one in an action thriller should ever, ever do: he recounts how much he loves his wife, and then extracts a photograph of her to gaze lovingly at it and discuss his future plans with her. These actions spell certain doom in any action film. 90 seconds after he looks at the picture, a helicopter shoots at them, kills the partner, and Swagger is left to fend for himself.
Fast forward a few years, and Swagger is now living as a mountain man with his beer-drinking dog in the hills of
Montana. He is approached by Danny Glover (yeah, he’s in this movie) to help the government foil a plot of a presidential assassination. They know he’s the best shooter in the world, and want him to set up the assassination, because they feel he and the would-be assassin would think similarly. Swagger may be a good shooter, but he’s obviously dumb as cheese, because he agrees to this cockamamie plot. Before you can say “sic simper tyrannis,” the assassination has already occurred, and Swagger, having been seen around town planning an assassination, is an easy target for a frame up. Only the president is alive, and the African ruler he was meeting with took the bullet instead. The rest of the film is Swagger’s investigation as to who framed him, and his sneaking around and shooting of most of them. “The Punisher” was more richly layered.
Swagger also finds that his home and dog have been destroyed by the cadre of baddies who have framed him. I mention this to set up the best line in the film: At one point, when Swagger has been investigating, clandestinely, those who have set him up, and is questioned why he hasn’t yet gone to the police with his story yet, he turns earnestly to his questioner and says with no little amount of gravitas, “You don’t understand… they killed my dog.”
Eventually the film uncovers the bad guy as a blustery senator played by Ned Beatty, Swagger ends up partnering with a green FBI agent named Nick Memphis (Michael Peña, I guess “Buck Smooth Texas” was taken), and his dead partner’s widow (Kate Mara).
Here’s the ending: After all the shooting and investigating and uncoverings, Swagger is eventually arrested, clears his name, but is unable to go after Ned Beatty and Danny Glover in any legal way (it turns out, since all of his other crimes took place on another continent, the US has no jurisdiction to prosecute. I hate when that happens). So Swagger sneaks out to their cabin where the two of them are, I swear I’m not making this up, cackling, smoking cigars, and plotting their next deed of supervillainy. James Bond would wince at the obviousness of the imagery. Swagger then kills them all. The end. That’s it. Swagger shoots the bad guys. It’s a two-hour film of nothing but Swagger shooting bad guys.
A few positive things about “Shooter:” Mark Wahlberg has a gruff and realist acting style that is improving with each passing film. Michael Peña’s character is funny without being too much of a cliché, and director Antoine Fuqua is drifting away from his obnoxious grainy, hyper-edited, “hard-edged” dramas (I thought his “Training Day” was overrated, and his “King Arthur” was muddy and indistinct, and rather ridiculous), and making better movies for it.
A few negative things about “Shooter:” the rest of it.