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Overall Rating

Awesome: 13.79%
Worth A Look44.83%
Just Average: 10.34%
Pretty Crappy: 15.52%
Sucks: 15.52%

5 reviews, 28 user ratings

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by Peter Sobczynski

"Imagine "24" Without All That Pesky Plausibility"
2 stars

At the risk of making a broad generalization, there are two kinds of movies–Smart Movies and Dumb Movies. Smart movies are pretty much self-explanatory–they attempt to deal with real-life themes and issues in an intelligent manner by utilizing fully developed characters, incisive dialogue and a storyline that avoids getting bogged down in cliches. “Zodiac,” for example, is unquestionably a Smart Movie–perhaps too smart for its own good, according to the box-office receipts. Dumb Movies, on the other hand, are virtually incapable of spelling words like “themes,” “issue” or “and” and tell their stories using one-note characters, ludicrous dialogue and carefully avoiding any narrative situation that cannot be solved simply by blowing something up real good. “The Marine” is a perfect example of the apex of the Dumb Movie–it is unquestionably preposterous it was and as a result, it would up being a surprisingly entertaining bit of brain rot. The problem comes in when a film that firmly belongs in one group suddenly decides that it wants to be in the other one–a Smart Movie pretending to be Dumb often comes across as condescending and a Dumb Movie pretending to be Smart often comes across as gibberish. “Shooter” is a perfect example of the latter–it is a Dumb Movie through and through and if it had been made as a low-budget exercise with someone like Steven Seagal or Brian Bosworth in the lead, it might have been a cheerfully cheesy B movie extravaganza. Alas, this is a Dumb Movie that expends so much energy trying to convince us that it is a Smart Movie that there is precious little left for the film itself.

“But wait,” you might say, “how can ‘Shooter’ possibly be considered a Dumb movie? It has big-name stars like Mark Wahlberg and Danny Glover, it was directed by Antoine Fuqua, the guy who made ‘Training Day’ and it is based on a novel by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Stephen Hunter.” Yes, those things may be true–and I am even giving the benefit of the doubt by including the presence of Fuqua as an asset based on the fact that many people value that film more than I do–but they are irrelevant because the film announces its core dumbness when we learn that the name of our hero, played by Wahlberg, is Bob Lee Swagger. Even in a genre that has given us such unlikely IDs as Dirk Pitt, Johnny Utah and Harley Davidson & the Marlboro Man, the exaggerated machismo of that name is an eyebrow-raiser. There was once an episode of “Mystery Science Theater 3000" where the gang mocked the meathead hero by coming up with a slew of appropriately muscle-bound monikers–I seem to recall “Bolt Vanderhuge” and “Blast Hardcheese” being among them–and “Bob Lee Swagger” would have fit in perfectly.

To further bolster its Dumb Movie credentials, “Shooter” kicks things off with a classic Dumb Movie opening scene in which our lunkhead hero shows off his macho credentials. In this one, we see crack military sniper Swagger on a top-secret mission in Ethiopia. Inevitably, the mission goes sour and Swagger and his best friend/spotter are trapped behind enemy lines and pinned down by intense gunfire from the enemy. Although the best pal quickly bites the dust, Swagger manages to make his way to safety thanks to his cunning, his wile and, most importantly, a title card reading “36 months later” that lets us know that he survived without having to do anything as mundane as explain how he managed to pull it off. Anyway, Swagger has left the military and has become a paranoid conspiracy buff living in a remote cabin in the mountains with his loyal dog. One day, he is visited by Colonel Isaac Johnson (Danny Glover), a mysterious government bigwig with a proposition. It seems that a report has been intercepted suggesting that someone is planning to assassinate the president by shooting at him from over a mile away–since Swagger is one of the only people in the world with the skills to pull it off, they want him to scout out the rumored locales and plot out how he would do it so that the police and Secret Service will have a better idea of how to stop it from happening. Because he is a paranoid conspiracy buff with a deep mistrust of the government that has already betrayed his loyalty and left him for dead once before, Swagger does what anyone in a similar position would do–he automatically agrees to take part in a plan that even your trusting grandmother might have found more than a little fishy.

Predictably, shots ring out and while the president is unharmed, a visiting Ethiopian diplomat standing next to him gets his head blown off. It gradually begins to occur to Swagger that he may have been double-crossed once again–a point brought home when he catches two bullets himself–and he barely manages to escape the scene by accosting the FBI agent Nick Memphis (Michael Pena), a Dumb Movie name to rival Bob Lee Swagger, and stealing his car. After treating his wounds using old fashioned Civil War techniques involving sugar, spice and whippit hits, Swagger, with the help of Sarah Fenn (Kate Mara), the cute girlfriend of the dead best pal from the opening scene, attempts to prove his innocence, expose the conspiracy and bring the bad guys to justice. Meanwhile, Col. Johnson, along with a psycho aide with the equally risible name of Jack Payne (Elias Koteas), tries to hunt down Swagger to tie up the loose ends while Agent Memphis, who is convinced that something is fishy about the whole thing, begins asking questions that are, as a superior puts it, “way outside of your pay grade.” To explain how it all ends is beyond even my capabilities but I can offer that it involves plenty of explosions, a couple of shocking last-minute revelations and one joke at the expense of Anna Nicole Smith that probably played a lot better a few months ago than it does now.

“Shooter” is clearly a Dumb Movie through and through–this is the kind of film that gives us an establishing shot of the U.S. Capitol and still feels the need to include the subtitle “Washington D.C.” for anyone who might be fuzzy on the locale–and if it stuck to those guns and didn’t take itself so seriously, it might have come across as a moderately effective potboiler that would be perfect fodder for one of those Brew & View theaters (provided that there is plenty of the former on hand to help wash down the latter). Alas, the problem with the film is that deep down, it wants to be a twisty thriller that taps into the current mistrust that many people harbor towards various government institutions and so we are treated to discourses about any number of past and present political conspiracies as well as the last-minute inclusion of a string-pulling corrupt U.S. senator (Ned Beatty) amidst all the explosions and shootouts. As a result, the film plays like an adaptation of a Lyndon LaRouche pamphlet (minus the lucid narrative) with a plot that contains more ludicrous twists and conspiracies than an entire season of “24" compressed into two hours. And then, having introduced the problem of systematic government corruption into the mix, the only answer that “Shooter” can offer is to shoot all the bad guys in the face. That solution might have worked in a Dumb Movie but in a film hoping to come across as a Smart Movie, it feels like a cop-out.

Likewise, the characters are too thinly drawn to support the weight that the screenplay wants to apply to them. Our hero may look like a Bob Lee Swagger but throughout the film, he acts more like Jethro Bodine and not even a performer as charismatic as Wahlberg (who is probably wishing that this film had come out before he scored his surprise Oscar nomination for “The Departed”) is able to make him seem plausible for a second. As the chief bad guys, Danny Glover and Elias Koteas are so relentlessly one-note in their villainy that the only thing they are lacking are handlebar mustaches to twirl. (In the late innings, Koteas turns into a superviolent rapist for no other reason than to make his eventual death scene play better with audiences). As for the other characters, they either exist to be jerked around by the machinations of the plot (Pena) or serve absolutely no purpose whatsoever. (The Kate Mara character is one of those people who is able to drop everything in their lives at the drop of the hat when a gut-shot stranger accused of murder appears on their front porch asking for help and seems to exist only to be taken hostage during the climax). I will confess to enjoying the last-minute appearance by Ned Beatty, although that is mostly because his turn reminded me of his cameo in the infinitely better “Network” and at that point, I needed a reminder that there were better movies out there than this one.

Implausibly written and indifferently staged (even though they are meant to be jokes, the action scenes in the upcoming “Hot Fuzz” are staged far more inventively than anything seen here), “Shooter” is the very epitome of the kind of instantly disposable film that has become all too common a sight in recent months–even people who wind up enjoying it are unlikely to remember anything about it a month from now other than the name of the lead character. A lot of good people were hired to bring it to the screen and plenty of money was clearly poured into it but in the end, all of that turns out to have been in the service of a “Shooter” that doesn’t even come close to hitting its mark.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15540&reviewer=389
originally posted: 03/23/07 05:23:03
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User Comments

3/09/14 Charles Tatum Violent but surprisingly compelling 4 stars
11/21/11 Vishwas Implausible, but well done. Enjoyable 4 stars
1/23/11 Jeff Wilder One of the better recent action films. Has more intelligence than stuff like GI Joe. 4 stars
9/22/10 bored mom Just like its name: generic-ass crap, and not worth remembering. 2 stars
11/22/09 R.W. Welch Not a bad conspiracy/action pic but with excessive mumbling. C+ 3 stars
3/22/09 KingNeutron Some parts were a little too convenient, but overall pretty well done. 4 stars
8/03/08 mr.mike Fair , with unspectacular action and some unconvincing detours. 3 stars
7/04/08 mike quite surprised by how good this was. wish I had watched it earlier 5 stars
3/13/08 Wes Fun review for a great movie! 5 stars
2/10/08 debdahlin better than I expected 3 stars
2/02/08 cody a soild action movie with cool story and great actor of course mark wahlberg. 3 stars
12/09/07 Jamie L. The most implausible piece of crap that I suffered through this year. 1 stars
11/14/07 Matt Standard conspiracy theory stuff but well made and highly watchable 3 stars
8/28/07 Renee Really enjoyed. I loved Mark Wahlberg's Bobby Lee. 5 stars
7/31/07 Monday Morning Much better than expected - not much downtime as far as excitement. 4 stars
7/16/07 ES It was good enough 4 stars
7/07/07 Tracey Chambers great action. oh, and marky mark. what more could you ask for. 5 stars
7/04/07 Trust A solid film with valid warnings, nice action 4 stars
7/02/07 William Goss About as decent as it is derivative. 3 stars
5/16/07 Yamis Great! 5 stars
5/12/07 jim rambo 10 1 stars
4/10/07 funky chick this movie is so fuckin awaesome 5 stars
4/06/07 AJ Muller Awesome. Loads of bloody, asskicking action and Wahlberg is superb. Loved it. 5 stars
3/28/07 Sara A total insult to it's audience! 1 stars
3/27/07 Rob Implausible. Cheesy. 2 stars
3/26/07 Ole Man Bourbon Yay, the government finally killed Danny Glover 4 stars
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  23-Mar-2007 (R)
  DVD: 26-Jun-2007

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