“You don’t understand how serious this is. They killed my dog.”
Justin’s rating: Marky Mark and the Gunny Bunch
Justin’s review: In selecting Shooter for my Netflix queue, the following reasons for doing so ran through my mind: (1) I read something positive about it, somewhere, and (2) it seemed like a good “compromise” action movie that would halfway please both my wife and I while exciting neither. Well, it didn’t even get halfway before I realized that nobody was going to be pleased with anything in here, because what Shooter delivers is one gigantic cliché bomb.
I have a new theory about audiences and movie clichés. We will tolerate even the clunkiest of clichés if they exist in an otherwise entertaining or well-made film. However, when the movie is nothing but a cliché sufflet, all mercy is off – it’s time for the dogs to dine.
Shooter is simply appalling at the depths of stupidity that it sinks to, and it doesn’t ever stop going down until the end credits. I can’t even cover the film without cataloguing all of the clichés present, so for the sake of therapy and sanity, here goes:
(1) Borrowing from every military movie ever, Shooter begins with Marine sniper named Bob Lee Swagger (Mark Wahlberg) who is hung out to dry after an operation goes bad. He acts shocked that the military would do this, even though movies have taught us well that the army is just one botched mission away from turning tail and running away from the bold troops who serve us so well. Swagger is therefore disillusioned, and becomes one of those paranoid mountain men who write scary diatribes about the government but he’s really patriotic even though he has a pony tail. You know. One of them.
(2) Swagger is then recruited by the government to plan a hypothetical assassination using his awesome sniper skills. This is apparently because the government ran out of snipers sometime back in 2003, and they’re now dredging the angry discharged vet pool. Swagger displays that sort of eerie know-it-all intuition and insight that completely escapes everyone else, and lays out how the assassination might happen.
(3) Because Swagger doesn’t get HBO in the mountains, he doesn’t realize – as we all do – that this is a giant set-up for the assassination to actually take place.
(4) Blamed for the hit, Swagger jumps movies and goes straight into The Fugitive, where he starts running away from the law and shows how ineffective the FBI truly is. The FBI can’t be fully blamed for this, because Swagger trained at Awesome Action Man School, where they teach you all sorts of things that sniper school doesn’t even get around to – hotwiring cars, doing self-surgery, deep sea diving, freerunning and bomb-making. There’s nothing he can’t do, other than grow wings, and even there I might concede the point if he had enough time to concentrate.
(5) The only shred of competent FBI personnel happens to be a man in departmental disgrace that nobody listens to, even though he’s figured out what happened a little after the audience and a lot before anyone else in the movie. It stands to reason that FBI man ends up fighting alongside Swagger and becoming an incredible sniper himself after all of an afternoon’s worth of training.
(6) Swagger takes a pit stop to mack on his ex-partner’s widowed wife. Because that’s just the way he rolls. Widowed wife completely buys his story and starts working for him as well, just because. She also has a scene where she brandishes a shotgun while in her underwear. It’s a thinking man’s film, for sure.
(7) After blowing up an entire platoon and an innocent farm house – all of which could’ve been avoided if he’d used a phone, as we find out by the end of the scene – Swagger uncovers the Big Conspiracy: It’s an Evil Senator. Let us remember that Evil Senators are to action movies as fake fur is to Sesame Street.
(8) To prove how incredibly patriotic he is, Swagger lugs FBI dude around and kills half of the people in the Western hemisphere. He doesn’t cover up his tracks, but doesn’t get thrown in jail, either.
(9) But it’s okay, because the bad guys killed Swagger’s dog (actual plot point), and that’s only fair he go all Rambo on their butts.
It’s just an appalling mess of logic and bullets. It’s as if the movie was able to snort loudly and then hock a huge loogie directly onto your face, followed by a hand held out for tips. We’re smarter than this, people. Spit back.