It's hard to refute the accuracy of the sniper portrayed by Mark Wahlberg in the action-packed Shooter. One wishes, however, that the story and drama in it was much more true-to-life.
This Antoine Fuqua-directed feature film has the chiseled, very athletic Wahlberg as Bob Lee Swagger. This Marine Corps sniper is seen early on in a tautly rendered mission in the Horn of Africa where a mission goes bad. It leaves his spotter, Donny (Lane Garrison), dead in the wake of helicopter fire. Thus, he sequesters himself in a ranch-like cabin in the mountains with his trusty dog Sam, leaving the military after being turned on by those he worked for.
As an actor, Wahlberg has that quality that Marine scout snipers have, "rapid bolt manipulation." The ability to focus on a hard, distant target after taking the initial shot.
The weakly rendered plot from the book "Point of Impact" by Washington Post film critic Stephen Hunter (who briefly is seen in an unbilled part) has Swagger reluctantly drawn into thwarting an assassination attempt on the President. Swagger's technical aplomb when it comes to long-range ballistics, including altitude, wind speed, and temperature and humidity.
In a stunning turn of events, Swagger becomes the focus of a nationwide manhunt after the assassination of the Archbishop of Ethiopia (though Swagger thinks that the President has been killed) during a Philadelphia speech. Swagger takes two bullets from one portly Philly cop, Timmons (Alan C. Peterson).
Fuqua's uneven, though somewhat explosive film, tries to be a "thinking man's Rambo", as it incorporates pictures like First Blood and The Fugitive with 70's conspiracy thrillers like The Parallax View and Three Days Of The Condor.
Suspension of disbelief is pertinent to finding this tale about a brilliant marksman something honorable as this genre is hijacked through manipulation and cliches, deception that penetrates the government and its most covert orginizations.
Those of a certain age may seen the resemblance of Swagger to John Rambo, as both live by their own code. Both are betrayed and left completedly isolated and alone. Those whom he touches in his revenge against the country's elite are FBI agent Nick Memphis (Michael Pena of World Trade Center) and sweetly drawling Sarah Fenn (Kate Mara of We Are Marshall).
Memphis is the character who often provides comic relief that Pena even did in a couple of tender scenes in World Trade Center. His character sometimes balances the simmeringly intense Swagger as the embarrassed, skeptical agent becomes his protege, and helps him execute his plan along with the aid of an alluring FBI assistant (Rhona Mitra of The Number 23).
Mara's Sarah happens to live in Kentucky and is the lonely widow of Donny, Swagger's fallen partner. Their scenes reflect a wound that figuratively and literally needs repair. Sarah's a teacher, but has the attributes of a nurse that works after Swagger initially treats himself with items like sugar. Earlier, the ex-Marine had done much to prevent his demise while in a car wash.
Elaborate stunts and choreographed action are of top priority as Shooter makes the most of its locations, as British Columbia figures more prominently than D.C. and Philadelphia. That includes a scene Swagger has with the mysterious, paralyzed Michael Sandor (Rade Sherbedgia) as two dozen armed men from a secret cabal descend upon him, as well as a scenic, alpine climactic rendezvous atop a glacier. Unfortunately, the last reel, as it builds to this rather graphic high point, loses momentum. And, the denouement is more of a letdown, as a job at another ranch-like cabin must be completed.
Wahlberg does hit the bulls-eye at times in a movie that pleases similarly to Sylvester Stallone camouflaging his body and face. He's committed in a part that has more precision and dialogue, though in a fallacious hard core story of survival. It's a continuation of his last scene in The Departed. One wishes that the script had gone through the boot camp that he did with specialized Marine sniper trainer Patrick Garrity. And, that a tight-lipped Danny Glover and Ned Beatty were deployed in a better light than they are as a shadowy Colonel and an aging U.S. Senator. The heart of the dark excitement is the violence of high-tech weapons as corruption and courage are coolly drawn, and some laughs, one of which is at the expense of the late Anna Nicole-Smith.