Monday, September 30, 2013

Shooter (2007)

Director: Antoine Fuqua                                   Writer: Jonathan Lemkin
Film Score: Mark Mancina                               Cinematography: Peter Menzies Jr.
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Danny Glover, Michael Peña and Kate Mara

Shooter is a very nice action film, even though it’s not very original. Based on a novel by Stephen Hunter, a writer who is not very original himself, it’s essentially the same plot as the film F/X though it’s probably been used dozens of times, both before and after that film. Essentially Mark Wahlberg is a man with a skill that an unsanctioned government agency needs to use. They hire him, he does the job, and they attempt to dispose of him to tie up loose ends. But of course his special skills enable him to escape his fate and live to seek revenge upon the very people who hired him and continue to underestimate him. It’s part Rambo, part Bourne, and part Sniper, and even with the derivative nature of the film it’s an entertaining action picture that works well and manages to avoid a lot of impossible situations that would push it into James Bond territory.

Wahlberg is a highly trained Marine sniper who is left to die when the covert mission he’s on does not allow for his extraction. His spotter, Lane Garrison, is killed but Wahlberg makes it out on his own. Years later, military man Danny Glover comes to him in his remote, back-woods cabin and begs him to help the government prevent the assassination of the president by a long-range sniper. If Wahlberg can figure out where the sniper might nest, maybe they can stop him. Wahlberg reluctantly agrees, and when he is in position during the president’s speech, he is shot and falls out the window just as the sniper shot is fired, killing an African bishop on the dais with the president. Wahlberg survives the fall and begins a run for his life, stealing a car from FBI rookie Michael Peña, and eventually making it to the house of his spotter’s widow, Kate Mara.

Of course Glover’s agency is the one who engineered the assassination of the Bishop and are using Wahlberg as their fall guy. They leave his gun at the scene, plaster his name and photo all over the media to flush him out and kill him, and when that doesn’t work they set up a trap. Except that Wahlberg knows that going in. Assisting him are Peña, who has reasons to believe that Wahlberg is being set up, Mara, who patched his wounds up and contacted Peña, and Peña’s colleague at the FBI, Rhona Mitra. After a while, when Glover can’t close the deal, it becomes clear that he is being run by corrupt senator Ned Beaty who is in charge of the illegal activities Glover is carrying out. Again, though not very ingenious, or even suspenseful, it is interesting to see how Wahlberg wiggles out of his troubles.

Mark Wahlberg, ever since his association with George Clooney in Three Kings and The Perfect Storm, has had a positive career trajectory that includes The Italian Job and Academy Award nominations for The Departed and The Fighter. He makes a credible action hero and has a very natural acting style. Danny Glover, of course, is a legend, but he is getting a little long in the tooth since his breakout performance in Witness and soon after becoming a member of Lawrence Kasdan’s stock company. The real gem here is Michael Peña, who has gone from minor roles in films like Million Dollar Baby and The Lincoln Lawyer to starring roles and is quite convincing. Shooter, in the end, is an enjoyable action film that delivers right down the line of genre expectations and succeeds.

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