Marksman Strikes Back
Betrayal, revenge and political conspiracy form the backdrop for Shooter, an action-packed movie starring Mark Wahlberg. Following his outstanding Oscar-nominated performance in The Departed, Wahlberg seems perfectly cast here as a disgruntled ex-Marine called back into service -- supposedly to prevent the assassination of a U.S. President -- then framed by the very people who recruited him.
Wahlberg portrays Bob Swagger, a highly trained Marine sniper who left the military after being deemed expendable during a dangerous mission, one resulting in the death of his best friend, who was also his spotter. Swagger retired to an isolated mountain cabin with his faithful dog, and he can’t help being suspicious when Colonel Isaac Johnson (Danny Glover) shows up one day requesting his involvement in foiling a long-range assassination attempt on the President. Johnson knows which buttons to push, so Swagger finally agrees to the visitor's patriotic plea. But after Swagger finds out he’s been set up, he decides to wreak vengeance on everyone involved. His best friend’s widow (Kate Mara) and an FBI agent (Michael Peña) join him in his daring plan.
Although not boasting a very original plot (some critics call it a rip off of First Blood or TV's 24), Shooter provides a showcase for Wahlberg’s versatility as an actor. He’s certainly growing on me. His early film work failed to impress me, but I sat up and took notice of his excellent performance in Rock Star, and he’s improved with each film since then. To my surprise, in The Departed he even upstaged Jack Nicholson (who else has been able to do that?). As Swagger, Wahlberg makes us feel the man’s pain when tending to his own wounds while in hiding, and he does a commendable job of projecting Swagger's seething anger at the men responsible for causing even greater evil.
Michael Peña (World Trade Center) also delivers a standout performance here as an FBI agent under scrutiny for his part in Swagger’s escape. Peña adds a bit of humor to the movie with his look of disbelief whenever governmental officials make accusations against Swagger. I think Peña is one of the most likeable actors working today, and I hope he lands a leading role soon. Unfortunately, the villains seem a bit over the top in Shooter, especially Ned Beatty as a corrupt senator, and a couple of cast members (Danny Glover and Kate Mara) mumble too much to understand what they’re saying in certain scenes.
Viewers who expect lots of shoot-em-up and violence in action flicks won’t be disappointed with Shooter. After all, the main character is an expert marksman who also knows how to make the most of explosives. My husband calls this movie “300 for sissies” -- which probably means he enjoyed it but prefers watching Spartan warriors fight face-to-face in days of yore over seeing carnage caused by modern technology.
Despite its minor flaws, I found Shooter to be a suspenseful, better-than-average escapist movie. Fans of Mark Wahlberg should definitely put this one on their must-see list.
(Released by Paramount Pictures and rated “R” for strong, graphic violence and some language.)
Listen to Betty Jo Tucker discuss Shooter on the ReelTalk Radio Show by clicking here.