Shooter is pure entertainment. They don't make movies like this anymore. I mean, seriously, they don't make movies where someone gets wronged and then kicks the wrongdoers' asses. Everyone wants to have some moral ground, some perspective in the post-Columbine/9/11 world. All you really need is an excuse to blow stuff up.
Former assassin Bob Lee Swagger (Mark Wahlberg) is pulled out of reclusion to thwart a presidential assassin, but Col. Johnson (Danny Glover) actually frames him for it instead. So, Swagger has to go kill all the conspirators. That's it.
It's an All American Bourne Identity. I know, I just said they don't make movies like this anymore, but come on, comparisons are my thing. That's the more sophisticated version of "just leave me alone," and Shooter is an American patriot fighting the corruption. The kinds of asses Arnold and Sly used to kick.
The whole fatal flaw in the conspirators' plan is that they hired a fat, out of shape cop to kill Swagger when the hit goes down. They had a remote controlled gun hit a target from miles away, but they couldn't just hang out and make sure Swagger takes a head shot. And thank God they didn't.
This is the best action movie of Antoine Fuqua's career. Training Day was the Denzel Washington show regardless of any shootouts, but compared to the choppy messes of King Arthur, Replacement Killers and Bait (and the dry boredom of Tears of the Sun), this thing flows and rocks.
There's a nice balance of tactical action and big, loud bombast. In either situation you can see what's going on and who he has to get in order to escape. That should be a given for any movie, but sadly it has become a distinction of praise. It's also ultra bloody, gratuitous and glorious.
It's not nonstop. There's a lot of planning, but it's fun planning and it all pays off. Picking off hostiles one by one is thrilling. There are some nice sharp shots, avenging deserving bad guys in gory ways. And when there's a big escape, there is chaos and mayhem all over.
Swagger falls through glass and from heights but he's okay. He dodges armies of gunfire and takes out his targets in a single shot. That's because he's the man. There are good self-operating scenes when Swagger is healing. He does first aid on his bullet wounds in a car wash, and makes his own IV.
The tech talk of the assassins is interesting science, and vague enough so that it's not a how to. But they convince you that Swagger knows how to pull off the most impossible shots, and that the FBI agent (Michael Pena) is figuring out the conspiracy. The conspiracy is just clever enough to tie everything together, but certainly not clever enough to be remotely believable as a strategy. In one scene, Pena's character sneaks into a secret file room by waiting by the fountain just outside the door until somebody leaves. That's what kind of movie this is. He also goes into a gun chat room for research.
Shooter is a straight action movie but there is enough comic relief that it doesn't take itself overly seriously. Most of the humor is on Pena's side, with jokes about federal jobs and bureaucracy or political celebrities, but Wahlberg gets some good lines.
Just having so many familiar faces is a treat. It used to be, you could always tell who was going to turn up in one of these movies. Usually Dan Hedaya was a safe bet, or Robert Costanzo/John Polito (either one). But now it's just the A-list star and the no names, or the stunt casted Oscar-nomineees who are slumming it in the pocorn movie. But Pena, Glover, Elias Koteas, Tate Donavan and Rhona Mitra are strong bit players. Mitra isn't even being evil or seducing someone. Oh, and for the Kate Mara fans, her morning shirt is a special treat for us. She covers up so Swagger can't see her, but not before we get a peek.
There are some bad action lines. That kind of adds to the charm. "You're a hard man to find." "Not hard enough." Oh, snap, that means he wishes he'd hidden deeper so that the man couldn't bother him. "They're never gonna stop chasing you." That's right, he can't just run. He has to FIGHT!
They do try to throw in a message about US politics and African genocide, but it's so slight it's really just part of the fun. Yeah, let Fuqua justify an A-list revenge movie. Or maybe it came from the book, but since they didn't even keep the title, why would they keep that?