Suspended over a deep gully of disbelief, where logic takes on more bullets than the bad guys, Shooter still makes the grade as hard-ass action escapism. Props to Mark Wahlberg, an actor whose fierce gaze and neaky humor can carry movie over the rockiest terrain. Even one that plays like a shotgun marriage between The Fugitive and The Bourne Identity. Wahlberg, who finally got that Oscar nomination (for The Departed) that he also deserved for Boogie Nights and I Heart Huckabees, plays Bob Lee Swagger (great name), a former marine scout sniper. Emotionally wounded by the death of his partner on failed mission in Africa, Swagger takes off with his dog to a ountaintop ranch (strikingly shot in British Columbia). It’s a visit from retired Col. Isaac Johnson (a glowering Danny Glover) that gets Swagger ack in the game when the colonel plays the patriotism card. There’s a lot to kill the president, and the colonel needs Swagger to predict how t will happen before it happens so he can stop it. In less time than t takes to say “patsy,” Swagger is on the run as the most hunted man in merica.
Based on the 1993 novel Point of Impact, by Washington Post film critic Stephen Hunter, who used Swagger in two other books, Shooter benefits rom having Training Day director Antoine Fuqua to deflect plot eficiencies with firepower. And the plucky cast is ready for every curve the film throws. Michael Peña (Crash, World Trade Center) plays Nick Memphis another nifty name), the FBI rookie who learns to side with Swagger nd cowboy the fuck up. Kate Mara (We Are Marshall) goes beyond the call f eye candy as the widow who comforts our boy. Still, it’s the villains played by Glover, Elias Koteas and Rade Sherbedgia who get the most out of the movie by diving off the deep end along with the script, by Jonathan Lemkin (Lethal Weapon 4). Any actor knows it’s hog heaven to ham t up as a crook, and Ned Beatty sucks the meat from the bone as a corrupt senator.
Fuqua wants to evoke classic 1970s conspiracy thrillers such as Three ays of the Condor and The Parallax View, but Shooter falls way below hat paygrade. Once this movie ts to take its paranoia eriously, the bogus gravity stalls he suspense and spoils the fun. The juice comes in scenes when Swagger goes ape-shit and no one can cool his blood lust. “You don’t understand!” he shouts when choosing violence as the only option. “Those guys killed my dog!” Face it: Brawn trumps brains anytime when you’re looking for guy-movie nirvana.