My love and admiration for 1985’s Commando never goes unspoken when given ample opportunity. Quite simply, it is the raddest action flick ever made. It took preposterous action to a level that has never been reached since and proved once and for all that you can pile up bodies and laughs side-by-side. But let’s face it: bad guys aren’t much fun any more. Times are rough and serious and over-the-top screen violence just doesn’t seem to be as fun as it used to be with most audiences.
Why bring all this up? Because Shooter is here and it’s a welcome and refreshing throwback to the anti-hero action films of old. Is it preposterous? You bet. Will the politics piss off a good number of people? Most definitely. Do the bad guys get it, and get it good? Oh yeah. I think I just summed up the pitch meeting. It’s a recipe for a crackin’ good time at the movies.
Mark Wahlberg plays Bob Lee Swagger, an ex-Marine sniper who has taken on a rather unkind view of U.S. politics after a mission went awry. Now living a solitary lifestyle in the middle of nowhere, Swagger is surprised when Colonel Isaac Johnson (Glover) finds and recruits him to help with a situation. The government has received word of a plot to assassinate the President, and Swagger is sent to scout for possible positions in three different cities that a prospective sniper could use. The plot succeeds and, as the trailer gives away, Swagger is double-crossed and framed for the assassination. On-the-run and with allies only in Sarah (Mara), the wife of a deceased Marine partner, and Nick Memphis (Pena), a FBI agent determined to expose the truth, Swagger must plan his revenge on the men who set him up.
Based upon the novel “Point of Impact” by Stephen Hunter, Shooter is right on when it comes to delivering what fans of this nearly-lost genre want. It is certainly over-the-top, and admirably so, but it is also smarter than one would expect. Swagger’s efforts to stay alive are realistic and thrilling, especially once the film launches into its berserk third act. No corners are cut: the bad guys get their comeuppance in grand fashion.
Director Antoine Fuqua shows confidence and respect for the genre. He could have made this a god-awful, rapid-cut nightmare if he had wanted, but he sits back with the snipers and lets things unfold. The finale, which takes place on a snowy mountain, is superbly shot and executed.
Mark Wahlberg, who has been on a roll of late, is perfect as Swagger. He has the dogged determination the role calls for and stays human at the same time. Wahlberg has always been underrated, even despite a recent Oscar nomination, and his turn here only expands his resume. Michael Pena provides some comic relief as Swagger’s eventual sidekick and Kate Mara gets the job done as essentially the only female in the whole film. It’s also nice to see Danny Glover working again in the genre.
Shooter comes as advertised: an old-school action rumble with attitude and purpose. This is a long-overdue entry into a genre many hold dear. If I may paraphrase one of Commando’s finest lines: “Welcome back [full-on action film inspired by the best], so glad you could make it.”
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Length: 124 Minutes
Rating: R for strong graphic violence and some language.
Theatrical Release: March 23, 2007
Directed by: Antoine Fuqua
Written by: Jonathan Lemkin. Based upon the novel “Point of Impact” by Stephen Hunter.
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Michael Pena, Danny Glover, Kate Mara, Elias Koteas, Rhona Mitra