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Director Antoine Fuqua has a style and filmography that I have enjoyed in the past. With Training Day and King Arthur, he delivered some action packed movies that had both story and popcorn pyrotechnics. I will say that after seeing the trailer for his new film Shooter, I was a bit underwhelmed, but until I went to one of his works and was not entertained, I would at least give it a shot. I’m glad I did as Shooter ended up being a well told, nicely paced actioner that knew what it wanted to do at all times and lived up to its goals. We are never led into a situation that may twist in a way that will bring us out of the reality of what is happening; our hero has been framed and he will do anything necessary to find justice. Fuqua tells us who the good guys and who the bad guys are at all times. There is never an opportunity for the audience to second guess someone’s motives because the filmmaker is willing to appreciate our intelligence and spin a linear tale of revenge, trying to set things right against a corrupt government.

A big part of the film’s success lies in the performance by Mark Wahlberg. I have never been a real fan of his acting prowess, but I must give him credit for getting better each time he is in front of the camera. In my opinion, he was horrible early on in his career in movies like Fear. Sure he had a great turn in Boogie Nights, but I hold that true because he was basically playing himself—a young man new to the entertainment industry, trying to understand his role in it all. Only when he came out with possibly the best role in the phenomenal movie I Heart Huckabees did I finally say to myself, “this guy may be able to do the job after all.” Wahlberg is wonderful as Bob Lee Swagger on his journey to find out who is behind the conspiracy that led to his being framed in a Presidential assassination plot. The role may not be very demanding as far as range goes, but that is ok, because he does all he is asked and is believable as the ex-army sniper. All the weaponry jargon that spews from his mouth may sound like gibberish, but he sells it that he knows what he’s talking about.

The supporting cast help prop up the film as well, allowing for some nice sequences. Michael Peña is great as the FBI agent who sees that something isn’t right and becomes willing to help uncover what truly happened the night of the shooting. Ned Beatty has a nice turn as a corrupt Senator, and although I kept waiting for him to mumble “yes sir, Mr. Luthor,” he did a nice job. Also, mention must be made for the fantastic Elias Koteas. When he is given a role that he can really run with he takes it over and is electric. He plays the villain perfectly and between the slimeball moves and the hilarious scene at the end, (I love that he takes his belt off in the background while on the ground trying to make a tourniquet—most actors would probably just squirm there after what happens, but even when not the focal point he tries to bring the role out), you got to love the guy.

Besides the competent acting and some nice camerawork, (when Wahlberg enters what he knows is a trap, the camera composes each view of him in a way to show a vast space behind, making you think that someone will be turning up to take him out; the framing makes the suspense rise even higher), there are some problems. Sure the story is a convenient one, smart enough to get where it wants to go, taking the usual liberties action-flicks of this kind take, but it is effective and straight-forward. I don’t mind this shortcoming because it is better than trying to be more than you are, ruining any credibility you might have had. What I do mind is bad acting. Upon viewing the trailer I thought I would be pulling my hair out listening to Kate Mara’s fake hick accent, however, she wasn’t that bad. The atrocity actually came from Danny Glover. Whether it was his decision or the director’s, I don’t know, but his mouthpiece-causing lisp was terrible. At first I was wondering if he got that old he was wearing dentures and they were falling out, but when looking closer you can see a clear mouthpiece on his bottom row of teeth causing a bad speech pattern. I cringed each time he opened his mouth.

At the end of the day though, Fuqua delivers the action and his actors do the job at pulling it all off. Shooter is by no means a masterpiece, but who actually goes to these types of movies expecting one? If you have two hours to spare and want to be entertained with a minimal amount of brainwork to pull you through, I can think of many worse things to do instead of checking out Wahlberg’s one-man fight against the tyranny of influential people in high places.

Shooter 6/10

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photography:
[1] Michael Peña as Nick Memphis and Mark Wahlberg as Bob Lee Swagger in Shooter – 2007
[2] Kate Mara star as Sarah Fenn in Shooter – 2007

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