When sniper Bob Lee Swagger (Mark Wahlberg) is abandoned in the heat of battle by his military company, his best friend and spotter (Lane Garrison) is killed and he is forced to survive against insurmountable odds.
Naturally, he does and three years later (or 36 months later as the film likes to state) Swagger has withdrawn from civilisation completely, living alone in the mountains, with only his bitterness and distrust of the United States Army to keep him company. However, he is forced to re-examine his loyalties when he is approached to provide intelligence for an unnamed government agency.
There isn’t much about Shooter that will surprise you. It’s an action movie and doesn’t pretend to be anything else. But despite a serious lack of originality and new concepts – borrowing heavily from other film franchises – it manages to be an entertaining and engaging watch. It certainly goes big with gunplay, blood and brains – which Whalberg’s character kindly removes from many a bad guy’s skull.
As the film opens you can tick off a checklist of films that Shooter – either knowingly or unknowingly – draws inspiration from:
Number 1 – densely forested mountainous area occupied by an unappreciated and misunderstood loner. Check, Rambo: First Blood (1982).
Number 2 – Unappreciated and misunderstood loner’s past comes back to haunt him in the form of individuals who have come to enlist his help because of that past. Check, Commando (1985).
Number 3 – After some soul searching, unappreciated loner agrees to help but is “unexpectedly” double-crossed and framed. Check, Most Wanted (1997).
Number 4 – On the run and with no one to turn to an unlikely friendship develops between our misunderstood loner and another character who is completely out of his element. Check, Rush Hour (1998).
And, so it goes. Shooter is a film that has no qualms about presenting a story that has been told a million times before but what it does do fantastically is provide you with great action sequences, stunts and visuals. Shooter is style over substance all the way.
Bloody and brutal it goes the route of action over logic and casts Mark Wahlberg as an indestructible agent of revenge. There is no reasoning behind his actions, no negotiation – he is simply a man with one thing on his mind – and that makes this film all the cooler.
If Shooter had wanted to mix things up then another actor should have been cast in the lead role. Wahlberg does his thing adequately enough but he is simply too smooth. There is no true vulnerability to him; you know that he’s going to survive to the end the instant he appears on screen.
Had, for example, an older actor been cast in this role his age would not only have been more appropriate to the name – Swagger – but would also have placed a hurdle in front of the character before he had even begun to take out the villains. This would have led to a greater sense of triumph and victory at the end of the film.
Shooter is the perfect weekend action movie. It harks back to the glorious 80s action genre that asked nothing more of you than to switch off your brain and be absorbed in the violence and silliness of what was on screen. As far as action films go, Shooter is top class.