Screwed by the military while on a covert mission, sharp-shooter Bob Lee Swagger (Wahlberg) is dragged out of retirement, only to be screwed again. Framed for a Presidential assassination attempt, he goes on the run and fights to clear his name.
From the moment you first see the appropriately monikered Swagger (Mark Wahlberg) slip on a pair of wraparound shades and walk in slow motion to a hard-rocking tune, you understand that Shooter is going to be light on subtlety. Bad guys speak slowly in gruff voices; corrupt businessmen cackle while sucking on cigars; bent politicians whisper conspiratorially in the corridors of power; the good guys are indestructible. If you’re looking for a delicate touch, you won’t find it here.
But what Shooter lacks in restraint, it gains in tension, action and intrigue. Director Antoine Fuqua already demonstrated a knack for exploring the link between power and dishonesty in Training Day, which did for an intimate story of police corruption what Shooter does for international, multi-layered government corruption. Based on novelist Stephen Hunter’s Point Of Impact — an NRA fan’s favourite, and the first in a series of novels to feature Swagger — our hero is first seen hidden in full camouflage deep in the Ethiopian mountains, picking off the enemy with a high-powered rifle. When the operation goes wrong, Swagger is left to die.
Naturally, he doesn’t, and is next seen three years later, where he’s apparently been busy growing a ponytail and making a mountain retreat for himself with nothing but his beer-fetching dog for company. It’s here he’s visited by Colonel Johnson (Danny Glover) and his suspect team of cartoon cronies, who coerce him out of retirement on a false premise: ‘Tell us how to stop the President being assassinated by showing us exactly how you’d do it.‘
Despite his acute sense of danger, he fails to spot the set-up, and finds himself framed for the attempted assassination. With two gunshot wounds, the world’s hardest and most resourceful man hits the road, and with the help of his former army buddy’s wife Sarah (Kate Mara) and FBI rookie Nick (Michael Peña), unravels the truth behind the hit.
Ultimately, Shooter is flawed, but nevertheless takes you on an enjoyable, occasionally seat-gripping journey, its focus on impressive military weaponry and hard action softened by Fuqua’s fascination with flesh-bearing cleavage and womanly curves. There are worse movie combos.
The sequel-ready Swagger challenges Bournes supremacy with an impressive shoot-em-up, work-it-out action drama.