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SHOOTER

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Michael Pena, Danny Glover, Kate Mara, Elias Koteas, Rhona Mitra, Rade Serbedgia, Ned Beatty
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Paramount
Features: See Review
Length: 125 Minutes
Release Date: June 26, 2007

“There's going to be more shooting, more people are going to die. Now I didn't start it, but be sure as hell I mean to see it through.”

Film ***

There isn’t a lot going on in Shooter that we haven’t seen before in dozens of other action thrillers. In fact if Rambo and The Fugitive conceived a child, this would indeed qualify as one. However, aside from the fact that it had been a while since I experienced a rock solid popcorn action flick, the movie does contain a political conspiracy plot of nerve shattering proportions.

It also doesn’t hurt that director happens to be Antoine Fuqua, who’s made a name for himself as one of top action moviemakers of the present time. He directed the fantastic Training Day, as well as the vastly underrated Tears of the Sun and King Arthur. Fuqua knows how to maneuver a story on an action canvas, and he does so once again here in this adaptation of the novel “Point of Impact” by Stephen Hunter.

Mark Wahlberg, in perhaps the best physical shape he’s displayed on screen yet, serves a fitting action hero in the role of Bob Lee Swagger, a former special-ops sharpshooter. Swagger is now retired following a mission in Ethiopia and living a life in exile, where his daily routine consists of hunting with his loyal dog. That is, until, some government officials find him and approach him with a job.

The leader of the group, Col. Johnson (Danny Glover), knows about Swagger’s ability to take out targets from extremely long distances. He is requesting for Swagger’s help in a most unusual way. Rumor of a presidential assassination has surfaced, and Johnson wants Swagger to plan out a fake assassination so that the real one can stop.

Swagger accepts the job, and in one of the movie’s most intriguing sequences, he ventures to the three locations the President is making stops by; Washington D.C., Baltimore and Philadelphia. After testing the wind and location settings, he finds Philadelphia to be the likely sight of the assassination if one were to take place. It turns out Swagger is right, but only when a shooting occurs during the President’s speech, and Swagger himself is framed as the gunman.

The victim of a nasty and elaborate setup, Swagger is soon on the lam from both the law and the corrupted government. With his face all over the news, Swagger must stay one step ahead and rely on hits wits in order to get to the bottom of the setup, and the reasons behind it. And once you see how smart and resourceful Swagger is, you realize the bad guys made a tremendous mistake in choosing their fall guy.

But there is one person who doubt’s Swagger’s involvement in the shooting, rookie FBI agent Nick Memphis (Michael Pena). Memphis, who was near the scene of the crime and actually disarmed by Swagger during his escape, senses a conspiracy almost from the start. And when the evidence he discovers doesn’t add up, he begins to dig deeper into a case his superiors don’t want him anywhere near.

Shooter is flawless action escapist entertainment, and it gets better and more intense as it moves along. And once the political conspiracy plot comes into play, the movie becomes an even more engaging thriller. And Fuqua doesn’t dare to hold back on the graphic violence, as this is one action movie that definitely earns its R rating, which is refreshing since most action movies don’t seem to go all the way these days. I don’t have a problem with PG-13 rated action (see Mission: Impossible III), but real action fans appreciate action that goes all the way.

Without question, this is Mark Wahlberg’s show. He carries a strong physical presence that such an action role requires and even gets to squeeze in a number of funny lines in true Die Hard style. And Michael Pena, who’s really on a roll following Crash and World Trade Center, is perfect as the doubting FBI rookie. You root for both of these guys and want them to strike down the villains as soon as possible.

I did have a slight problem with two performances. Kate Mara, who was fantastic in We Are Marshall, plays the widowed wife of Swagger’s marine partner who was killed in action. Mara is a stunningly beautiful woman and a very decent actress, but here she tends to overplay her emotions way too heavily, as well as using the most overdone southern accent I’ve heard in any movie recently. And Ned Beatty, who plays a corrupt politician, is nothing short of underused.

But those flaws do not throw off the movie’s sheer entertainment value. It follows an action formula thoroughly, but it does have something of a complex plot that saves it from being mindless junk. Both a sharp political thriller and something of a retro 80s action pic, Shooter is, how should I put this, sharp entertainment you simply CAN’T MISS.

Video ****

Paramount delivers a top of the line anamorphic presentation with this terrific looking action flick. The image is thoroughly sharp and clean all the way through, with no image flaws of any sort in the proceedings. The image detail is tremendous and the colors are a fantastic plus as well.

Audio ****

The 5.1 mix helps the intense action hit you faster than a bullet. From music score to nearly continuous action sequences, the audio mix is constantly alive and furious. Dialogue delivery is terrifically clear in addition, and the action scenes are so amazing in terms of performance, that you may just find yourself ducking for cover.

Features ***

Included is a commentary track with Antoine Fuqua, as well as 7 Deleted Scenes, and two well made documentaries, “Survival of the Fittest: The Making of Shooter” and “Independence Hall”, which features an interview with the military technical advisor about the assassination sequences. Lastly, there are bonus previews for Zodiac and Black Snake Moan.

Summary:

Shooter hits and doesn’t miss! Mark Wahlberg is in full-blown action mode and director Antoine Fuqua has made another fantastic action movie to add to his terrific resume. Truly, a must see action thriller!

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