Thursday, April 05, 2007


My Bicep's Larger Than My Gun

Never mess with someone who can drop you with his gun from miles away. Snipers somehow has this aura of mystique and sexiness associated with the motto of "one shot, one kill", as exhibited in movies like Enemy at the Gates, or memorable war characters such as in Saving Private Ryan. In Shooter, this gets demystified for a while, hitting home that not only should one be gifted with the pulling of the trigger from incredible distance, a sniper is also a master mathematician, having to compute the trajectory of the round with factors of humidity, wind direction, angle etc just to hit the target.

Mark Wahlberg stars as Bob Lee Swagger, whom director Antoine Fuqua makes him literally walk with a swagger in all the silhouetted slow motion shots. A battle hardened veteran with ghosts from the past (don't they all), he gets tempted back to assist the authorities in order to feed his patriotic adrenaline, only to find himself screwed and framed for a treasonous crime he did not commit. It's cat and mouse as prey becomes hunter, and tries to exact justice and at the same time, to try and prove his innocence. Expect the usual guns, explosions, and plenty of blood and gore.

Shooter plays off like an urban Rambo meeting The Fugitive, only this time Dr Richard Kimble has biceps the size of melons and fights back with deadly accuracy from his rifle. He runs from the authorities, firmly put as the scheming villains involved in shady deals and the existence of a covert group of greed ala X-Files, one of whom is played by Danny Glover, in a rare turn of alignment to the dark side. No self-respecting beefcake wannabe can do without some DIY operation scene to keep alive, or some montage in gathering and making new weapons (pipe bombs, napalm anyone?), and half the time I was wondering about Mark Wahlberg being the quintessential new generation action hero.

Gone are the days when Hollywood action movie were ruled by the Stallone-Schwarzenegger-VanDamme trio, and surprisingly there are no permanent beefcakes who can readily step into and fill the void. Wahlberg has been slowly inching his way in my opinion, though Marky Mark's filmography of The Italian Job, the Planet of the Apes remake, The Perfect Storm and the more recent Four Brothers, do suggest that more should be done to cement this status, hence Shooter. I can't wait for his Brazilian Job to hit the screens, though that one plays more like an Ocean's Eleven rather than the individual one-man-saves-the-world action hero type. The Departed was a vulgar bit role, so that doesn't count.

Antoine Fuqua is no stranger to directing action movies, or movies with the hero caught up against unfair odds. From Training Day to Tears of the Sun, you can see earlier influences creep their way into Shooter, making it a little familiar territory visited. There are many sweeping shots used to try and epic-ize the movie, and set action sequences take priority, reducing character development to the token time available between scenes, and sometimes at the expense of plausibility.

The supporting cast was fun to watch, as Michael Pena (World Trade Center, Crash) almost stole the show with his rookie FBI character being caught up in the wrong place at the wrong time, and almost against his training, wishes and protocol, forms and becomes an important ally for Wahlberg's Swagger. The woman folk however get relegated to backseat roles, as per the usual Fuqua movies with Eva Mendes, Keira Knightley and Monica Belluci. Don't expect Kate Mara or Rhona Mitra to do much. As for the rest, they are your token cardboard characters, there to chew the scene.

Shooter is an action fan's fodder, and it is nothing more than a guilt trip watching a cowboy of a hero mopping up the town's scum, exactly in the way we like to see justice served - without remorse, exacting, and served extremely cold. A satisfying actioner with the usual thrills and spills.

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