Wahlberg vehicle misses mark


on March 23, 2007 by Annlee Ellingson
On the heels of a surprise Oscar nomination for his role as a cop with a bad attitude in Martin Scorsese's The Departed, Mark Wahlberg takes a misstep with this poorly conceived and executed thriller from Antoine Fuqua. He certainly looks the part of former Marine scout sniper Bob Lee Swagger, who emerges from self-imposed exile to help prevent the assassination of the president by a long-range shooter only to find that he's been framed for the hit. But Wahlberg's low-key demeanor is ill-suited for the part of an ex-soldier with mad skills who goes to extreme measures to not only clear his name but uncover a government conspiracy of ridiculous proportions.

Faring even worse is Danny Glover as Colonel Isaac Johnson, a contractor who sets Swagger up to take the fall, finding himself uttering such inane lines as, literally, “I win. You lose. Again!” The indignities continue: Veteran character actor Ned Beatty is saddled with equally offensive dialogue. Following a memorably nuanced supporting turn in Zodiac, Elias Koteas is reduced to playing Johnson's lascivious henchman. And, after her lovely breakout in We Are Marshall, Kate Mara is given little more to do here than run around in her skivvies. Only one amusing scene featuring Levon Helm as a backwater munitions expert and conspiracy nut features a character or dialogue that are remotely interesting.

Fuqua's filmmaking and storytelling are equally frustrating, with visual trickery such as slo mo abused to the point of parody and stylized combat hysterically out of place amid the movie's pastoral mountain settings. A car chase through the streets of Philadelphia generates about as much as excitement as those captured nightly on the evening news; details of Swagger's escape are glossed over; and too much time is spent attending to a gunshot wound to his shoulder. Most egregiously, Shooter ends on a coda with a fatalistic worldview that would give even the most bleeding-heart of liberals pause.

Perhaps Paramount, which did such a horrible misdeed to the Jack Ryan franchise with 2002's The Sum of All Fears, smelled another political intrigue series in the making, as Shooter is based on Point of Impact, the first book in a trilogy by Pulitzer Prize winner and, ironically, Washington Post film critic Stephen Hunter. More likely, however, is the rumored sequel to The Departed starring the only man left standing. Distributor: Paramount
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Michael Pena, Danny Glover, Kate Mara, Elias Koteas, Rhona Mitra, Rade Sherbedgia and Ned Beatty
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Screenwriter: Jonathan Lemkin
Producers: Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Ric Kidney
Genre: Thriller
Rating: R for strong graphic violence and some language
Running time: 125 min.
Release date: March 23, 2007

Tags: Mark Wahlberg, Michael Pena, Danny Glover, Kate Mara, Elias Koteas, Rhona Mitra, Rade Sherbedgia, Ned Beatty, Antoine Fuqua, Jonathan Lemkin, Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Ric Kidney, Thriller, fugitive, sniper, Bob Lee Swagger, Isaac Johnson

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