Shooter PicRated: R
Running Time: 124 minutes
Directed by Antoine Fuqua
Screenplay by Jonathan Lemkin and based on the novel by Stephen Hunter


Some day I suppose I’ll have to accept the fact that Marky Mark (I’m sorry. I meant Mark Wahlberg…) is here to stay. It’s still kinda hard, though, to shake the image that he established for himself in his early career as a rap-singing underwear model…

He’s made strides, though. Wahlberg was great in Boogie Nights, The Italian Job, and Three Kings. I even liked his recent role (however brief) in The Departed. Shooter, however, is not a high point in his acting career. I’m hoping that this was only a momentary fall-back for Wahlberg and that he’s not tempted by money to make Shooter into a trilogy franchise.

Shooter is a regression to the bicep flexing Rambo-esque films of the eighties and nineties. The sort of mouth breathing, testosterone fueled films whose flimsy stories are excused because they have the requisite number of explosions and sweeping helicopter camera shots.

I’m not opposed to action films. The director of Shooter, Antoine Fuqua, is capable of making good action films and I was hoping his latest film would be up to his own standards. Training Day is one of my favorites. However, Shooter was a disappointment.

At some point I decided this film was actually a comedy. Maybe it was when Wahlberg grew the obligatory mountainman ponytail for the cabin scene and then immediately cut it off when he was asked to do his government a favor. Maybe it was when Wahlberg explained to a terrified FBI agent that there’s no turning back because, “They shot my dog.” Maybe it was at the end when I saw Ned Beatty play a cartoonish villain who drank his glass of scotch with his pinky extended like he was at a tea party.

There were times that I cheered for characters, though. I was extremely proud of Kate Mara for standing up for herself during the pivotal showdown on a mountain peak and making sure that she got a jacket. Otherwise, every scene in the film shows her in a bra or low cut top to best expose her cleavage.

Yes, the special effects are impressive.

If you want to see some big explosions and zone out for an hour and a half, maybe this is the right film for you. However, if you want something that makes you think or that you can discuss with friends afterwards, you’d better move on.

I give Shooter a C because it was fun to see things explode after a hard week at work. That’s probably more than it deserves.


The action begins in Ethiopia with several magnificent helicopter shots of an oil pipeline winding its way through the mountains. Maybe too many helicopter shots…I thought I was watching a Kevin Costner film for a minute (Maybe Dances with Wolves or The Postman).

Nearby, a marine corps sniper named Bob Lee Swagger (Wahlberg) is hidden on a mountaintop with his “spotter” ¾ both of them wear gilly suits that help them blend into the vegetation and mask their location from everyone below.
Swagger says that this mission doesn’t “feel” like a peacekeeping mission. Nonetheless, they are there to do a job. Swagger’s spotter gives him coordinates and Swagger kills the armed occupants of a jeep below. Quickly things get out of control when many more armed men move in and begin to blanket Swagger’s hidden position with gunfire.

Swagger and his spotter radio for help, but their commanders have declared the mission shut down and tell their other subordinates that Swagger and his teammate are capable of getting out alone. Radio silence.

Soon after, the spotter is killed by gunfire. Swagger mourns him for a few precious seconds, then takes out an attack helicopter by sniping its rotor. Swagger successfully kills 70% of the attackers in true Rambo fashion and then makes his escape.

Our intrepid hero then leaves the military and flees to the Montana mountains to seek solace and work on his ponytail. There, we find him again after three long years. Swagger spends his free time hunting wild game and surfing the Internet to see who else the military is screwing over. His companion is a lovable dog who he’s trained to fetch him bottles of beer (great product placement for Budweiser).

Then, Colonel Isaac Johnson (Danny Glover) shows up and begs Swagger to come out of retirement to help them out. Swagger is suspicious since Johnson’s partner wants to shoot his dog and looks like he works for Tony Soprano…but when Johnson pulls out a shiny medal of honor, Swagger puts his misgivings aside and agrees to hear them out.
Johnson explains there’s been a threat on the president’s life by someone who claims to be able to hit their target at a mile’s distance. They want to know if it can be done and if Swagger will act as a spotter to case out the next speaking location and explain how he might do it. That way they can prepare for a possible attack.

Yeah…right….Swagger is, of course, being set up to be the next Lee Harvey Oswald. You would think somebody who’s spent their last several years surfing conspiracy websites after getting the shaft from the military would be suspicious…but come on…it’s Danny Glover!

Swagger cuts off his ponytail and heads to Philadelphia. There, the president is presenting a medal to the Bishop of Ethiopia, when, just as Swagger predicted, the assassin takes out his target.

This sets up a nationwide manhunt for Swagger. In making his escape, Swagger is wounded and staunches his bloodflow with handfuls of sugar (a trick that a likeable FBI agent later claims has been in use since the Napoleonic Wars).

This likeable FBI agent is the only one who believes something fishy is going down.

Swagger is in no shape to hunt down the bad guys yet, though. He travels from Philadelphia all the way to Tennessee so he can get patched up by his ex spotter’s widow (Kate Mara). She may have dropped out of her nursing program, but she’s cute and spunky and hangs around the house in her underwear!

Miraculously, she doesn’t kill Swagger, but mends both his bullet wounds and gives him her late husband’s hunting rifle to go hunt down the bad guys with.

To make a long story short….he does! If you want to see how, exactly, and count the explosions along the way, you’ll have a pleasant 45 minutes or so of gun battles to look forward to.

Happy viewing.