The reason for Fuqua’s efforts soon becomes apparent. Swagger is going to do some pretty brutal things, and we’d better be on his side. Apart from sniping a few dozen people, he stabs, batters and incinerates at least that many again, and all with the kind of precision and relish that would be disturbing without the film’s elaborate justification.
And that’s pretty much the only purpose that the bargain basement political rhetoric serves. For all its talk of WMDs, Abu Ghraib and Ethiopia, the movie isn’t really interested in the complexities of American foreign policy, except as a backdrop to kicking some righteous ass. The simplicity of its motives are best summed up by Swagger himself, when his nominal love interest urges him to run from his enemies. “I don't think you understand,” he growls, “these people killed my dog.”
Whether you swallow its justifications or not, Shooter still succeeds as a straight-down-the-line action film. Fuqua’s workmanlike approach to filmmaking suits the genre, and he can put together an action sequence with the best of them. He doesn’t have the flair of someone like Michael Bay, or the majestic sweep of Ridley Scott, but he gets the job done.
Fuqua might have been lost, though, without his fine leading cast who bring far more nuance to their performances than the roles really deserve. Only an actor as stolid and likeable as Mark Wahlberg could avoid turning Bob Lee into a grim parody of an action hero. Michael Peña, whose trademark combination of strength and vulnerability succeeded so well in Crash and Babel, delivers yet another stand out performance.
Shooter is as grim and single-minded as a film gets, without any trace of humour or irony. Its gory simplicity makes it ideal for fans of the action genre, but anyone looking for an interesting plot or an intelligent take on the world had better look elsewhere.
- Alistair Fairweather
This businesslike action film is like Rambo meets Enemy of the State with a bit of Conspiracy Theory thrown in. Still, you gotta love Mark Wahlberg.
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