Dubby Bhagat: Hunter’s Shooter

One of my favourite authors is Stephen Hunter, who begins with a brilliant book called Point Of Impact about a retired sniper Bob Lee Swagger. He then followed it with several books about the Swagger family all thrillers and all best sellers. To cap it all he won a Pulitzer Prize as a movie critic writing mostly about thrillers.

So when a critic is as stupid as Glenn Kenny to begin his review by saying Bob Lee Swagger is a name to give you the giggles and then goes on to wreck the movie, we know he is not for real and that Premiere Magazine probably closed down because of such envy — Glenn Kenny always wanted a prize.

Says Robert Horton, “Shooter works an entertaining variation on the assassination picture. Mark Wahlberg, carrying over good mojo from The Departed, slides neatly into the character of Bob Lee Swagger, master marksman. Swagger has retreated from his duty as an off-the-books hired gun for the military, having become disillusioned with his government (switching on his TV at his remote mountain cabin, he mutters, ‘Let’s see what kind of lies they’re trying to sell us today.’). Ah, but the government needs Swagger to scope out the location of a rumored attempt on the life of the president, so a shadowy government operative (Danny Glover) begs Swagger to use his sniper’s skills to out-fox the assassin. From there — well, spoilers are not fair, since the movie has a few legitimate shocks and a very nice wrong-man scenario about to unfold.

“Wahlberg gets support from Michael Pena, as a sceptical FBI agent; Kate Mara, as a trustworthy widow; and Ned Beatty, trailing along memories of Network, as a supremely cynical Senator. Along with the well-executed action sequences (the previously unreliable director Antoine Fuqua gets it in gear here), the movie includes a few potshots at the Bush administration. No, that doesn’t put Shooter at the level of The Parallax View or All the President’s Men, but it provides some tang along with the flying bullets.”

Horton is at the other extreme. I agree with Brian Marder who says, “Solid acting and brave stuntmen elevate Shooter to a so-so movie — but yes, it needed to be elevated to get there. In other words: for hardcore action junkies looking for a quick fix only.”

But then he goes on to talk about Wahlberg’s performance, “In the last few years, and culminating with his Oscar-nominated turn in The Departed, he has built perhaps the widest fan base of any actor. In Shooter, said fans will be rooting for Wahlberg aloud, even though this is more of antihero role.

He’s gruff, rough and ultra-virile, and it actually works without a hint of unintentional humor on his part. If he’s willing to stay the action-hero course, Wahlberg might just be this generation’s Arnold, Bruce or Sly.”

If anyone is to be blamed for Shooter being dense, it is director Antoine Fuqua who after Training Day, should have gone back to being a music video director. He still has a chance unless the brilliant Stephen Hunter kills him first. Of Fuqua Marder says, “Fuqua is a former music video director. Fuqua, like most of his aforementioned kind, can create a gorgeously stylised action sequence but seemingly  little else, and if it weren’t for his overrated, Denzel-carried Training Day, he’d likely be back to full-time music video duty given his many past bombs.”