The "thinking man's Rambo"
By John DeSando, WCBE's It's Movie Time
"I'm going to tear their playhouse down," says Bob Lee Swagger (Mark Wahlberg) in the thriller Shooter. It's the FBI and the US government he's boldly tearing down, so you know if he wins this is a fantasy film less about the reality of government intrigue and more about our need to return to simple, muscular heroes such as Rambo. In fact, Swagger has been called a "thinking man's Rambo," not unjustifiably as he takes a long scene to school everyone within earshot about the dynamics of hitting a target a mile away.
Pulitzer Prize winner Stephen Hunter created Swagger in his best-seller Point of Impact, which surely must have more dialogue than this terse and tense thriller, whose cinematography is frequently impressive, a challenge even to the rich prose of the author. As for plot, nothing new here: Swagger is an ex-marine gunnery sergeant with a wicked eye for targets. He's asked to help the government thwart a presidential assassination attempt by analyzing the possible ways a shooter could hit from a long distance the president during a speech in Philadelphia.
The complications arise when not the president of the US is killed but the president of Ethiopia, who shares the dais. The rest of Shooter is pure genre fulfillment, Swagger never disappointing when he dispatches government bad guys. The film strays into uncomfortable territory when it introduces the machinations of nation building that operates without moral compass. The situations in Iraq and Africa come immediately to mind.
Ned Beatty as a corrupt senator and aging Danny Glover as a colonel with a great deal on his mind help elevate the film's otherwise pedestrian acting. Let's face it, we're there to see Swagger blow away as many corrupt government and foreign operatives as possible. That "possible" is really "impossible," but, hey, this is the movies. Relax, enjoy, and possibly try to forget the war in Iraq.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE 90.5's It's Movie Time, which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org Fridays at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm and on demand anytime. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com