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Directed by Antoine Fuqua.
Written by Jonathan Lemkin.  Based on the novel by Stephen Hunter.
Starring Mark Wahlberg, Michael Peña, Kate Mara and Danny Glover.
Release Year:  2007
Review Date:  3/20/07


Washington Post film critic Stephen Hunter--the one who basically nails everything to the wall and beats it with a proverbial stick in his reviews--writes fiction and non-fiction books on the side, so well in fact that he won a freakin' Pulitzer four years, all of this combined made "Shooter" (based on Hunter's novel "Point of Impact") worth checking out for me, because as much as I can hate the guy, his writing is always quite strong.  (Still one of my favorite film essays ever: Hunter's piece on how "Starship Troopers" compares with neo-Nazi fanaticism.)

Directed by Antoine Fuqua--who has made a decent action scene or two in his time, with films like "The Replacement Killers", "King Arthur", "Tears of the Sun" and his best work, "Training Day"--"Shooter" is taylor-made for an action/drama crowd, with a few laughs sprinkled in along with star Mark Wahlberg, whom the ladies adore.  Wahlberg plays Bob Lee Swagger, a sniper with a big problem: after retiring three years ago, he is asked by retired Colonel Isaac Johnson (Danny Glover) to help scout potential issues at a presidential speech in Philadelphia...and when the big day comes for the speech, Swagger is double-crossed by Johnson and a large crew of government turncoats bent on world domination, cover-up, murder, you name it.  Barely escaping Philadelphia with his life, he turns to both the fiancée of his former sniper buddy (Kate Mara) and a green FBI agent (Michael Peña) who suspects that something is up with the way the whole aborted assassination plot went down.  Many, many people have to die before Swagger can get his shot at learning what Johnson & Co. were really up to with that assassination attempt.

"Shooter" is great slap-happy fare; it's got just enough of everything to make you leave the theater saying some form of "That wasn't too bad" or "Not too shabby!" or "Hmm...good stuff" or whatever.  The movie feels like a better-acted version of the Keenan Ivory Wayans shittastic classic "Most Wanted", featuring almost the exact same plot elements.  The action sequences are quite good, thanks to a mix of Hunter's detailed plotting and Fuqua's always-strong action-scene execution...even IF you have to stretch to buy that Swagger is not just a sniper, but damn near a super-soldier.  Wahlberg is easy to love; Peña isn't quite as likeable as he normally is, but his part is kept to a minimum.  Mara's drawl and apparent distaste for cotton shirts that aren't see-through make her quite a sight; thankfully, she's just eye candy, not the love interest (is there anything more wrong than the idea of a guy watching his partner get killed only to have the survivor hitting on that dead guy's girl?  Jeez....).

Inevitably, we have to find out what makes this Johnson guy such an asshole, and the revelations really aren't that great.  Further, Glover has such a bad lisp in "Shooter" that it becomes an out-and-out Glover just getting old and unable to fully enunciate his words, or is that supposed to be a character flaw?  I wasn't sure, but it was annoying the living SHIT out of me for the entire film.  Johnson's underlings are poorly drawn, and worse, seemingly unqualified to be true emissaries of death...Elias Koteas plays a character whose only real character trait appears to be his love of sniffing the Mara character's hair.  There are other little tidbits like this that must have sent Hunter up the wall when he saw this for the first time as a finished product; I didn't stay for the Q&A after our freebie tonight because I knew that since Arch Campbell was running it, I wouldn't get the true Hunter anger that I was accustomed to.

But, overall, "Shooter" is a good time that is quickly digested and moved out of your system.  Just know that much like Wahlberg's last film, "The Departed", a LOT of people get shot in the head. 

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09