I thought that SHOOTER would be a good movie to catch on a rainy Saturday on DVD. Instead, Andrea and I went up to the Farmington Civic theater on Monday night to catch this flick for $3 a piece. I'm glad we did.
Capably directed by Antoine Fuqua, SHOOTER boasts a terrific cast of character actors from Ned Beatty to Elias Koteas to Rade Serbedzija. Even Danny Glover, who may have been keeping me from wanting to pay top dollar to see this film in the first place, does a fair job as the lisping antagonist, Colonel Isaac Johnson, to Mark Wahlberg's skilled protagonist, Bobby Lee Swagger.
The film opens with a black ops operation where the audience is made privy to the precision and sharp-shooting skills of Bobby Lee as he takes out enemy combatant after enemy combatant from hundreds of yards away. The mission goes awry, leaving Bobby Lee in the lurch and his partner dead. From there, the film jumps ahead in time three years to show Bobby Lee in his idyllic rustic cabin along with his beer-fetching dog, Sam. This scene feels a lot like COMMANDO with Mark Wahlberg in the Arnold Schwartzenegger role and Sam as Alyssa Milano.
Three visitors--Colonel Johnson (Danny Glover), Jack Payne (Elias Koteas) and Louis Dobbler (Jonathan Walker)--come a-callin' on Bobby Lee asking him to come to the aid of the country. They hope to prevent an assassination attempt on the President. They posit that by coming up with the scenario that a long-range sniper would use, they can find the potential assassin and stop him. Of course, Bobby Lee doesn't realize that he's a bigger patsy than Lee Harvey Oswald here. After shots are fired (killing not the President but an African Bishop), Bobby Lee takes the fall (literally) and goes on the run from every law enforcement agency in the country.
Only two people stand behind Bobby Lee; his army buddy's girlfriend, Sarah (Kate Mara who has a Jessica Simpson thing going on here), and rookie FBI agent Nick Memphis (Michael Peña). They aid Bobby Lee in finding Colonel Johnson and vast network of conspirators including Senator Meachum (Ned Beatty). Yes, this is pretty typical action movie stuff. As Bobby Lee goes on the run, one half-expects Tommy Lee Jones to step on screen as Gil Gerard and order a "hard-target search of every gas station, residence, warehouse, farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse and doghouse in that area." The real reason that I think I liked this film, apart from the pacing and acting, was the Now It's Personal moment.
Every action hero has the moment where she or he just can't deny that they have to take action. Some heroes have a pretty low tolerance for this (Clint Eastwood) while others can be beat up and have their houses burned to cinders without batting an eye. Killing a partner or spouse usually is a good motivating factor (Steven Seagal) but what gets Mark Walhberg going isn't being abused by a corrupt government who wants to take his life and besmirch his name. When Bobby Lee Swagger wakes up from some surgery performed by Sarah (shades of TERMINATOR here), she tells him that Sam, his dog, has been killed; "There's something I need to tell you...they said you shot your dog because you knew you weren't coming back."
Later, Nick Memphis tries to help Swagger; "You can hire a good lawyer and I'll call the bureau and they'll work out some kind of deal." Without missing a beat, Swagger lays out his entire motivation, "I don't think you understand, these boys killed my dog." And with that, I had to cheer on Bobby Lee in his quest for vengeance.