U.S. Release Date: March 23, 2007
Distributor: Paramount
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Producer: Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Mark Johnson
Composer: Mark Mancina
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Michael Pena, Danny Glover, Kate Mara, Elias Koteas, Rhona Mitra, Tate Donovan
Running Time: 2 hours and 4 minutes
MPAA Rating: R (strong graphic violence and language)

Assassination Action Hampered by Slow-Moving Target
by Scott Holleran

Shooter, an action thriller about an American military sniper implicated in an assassination plot, is sluggish and mildly interesting. Don't expect a tense, well-paced thriller with the zip of The Bourne Identity, but Shooter is satisfactory.

Leading the qualified cast, Mark Wahlberg stars as an assassin on America's side—that is, until the United States leaves him high and dry somewhere in Ethiopia where he's not officially supposed to be, his spotter lying dead beside him. It's an exciting start for Shooter, but it's downhill from there.

Wahlberg's superskilled sniper, Bobby Lee Swagger, makes it out of Africa, and he burrows himself into a remote mountain hideaway back home, where he has managed to acquire a laptop, guns and ammo, camera cell phone and long range binoculars—which he uses when he isn't pummeling cans of beef stew for target practice or nursing his big dog with beer. Like his name, Bobby Lee's hangout and routine are more than a bit over the top.

Along comes Danny Glover (lowering his voice) tempting renegade Bobby Lee out of retirement for a background job on an imminent plot to assassinate the President. Some of the dialog is crisp and it moves briskly.

Shooter fires up the action, and director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) throws in several twists that bundle conspiracy theory, anti-business lines and references to handmade bullets and velocity that sound very convincing. By the time the dust settles on the assassination attempt, Bobby Lee has been set up. He's on the run.

Before he takes flight, an intricate web is spun, with Glover in cahoots with a U.S. senator (Ned Beatty) and a roster of baddies. There's a female FBI agent (Rhona Mitra) and an agent fresh out of training (Michael Pena) by the name of Nick Memphis. Just when you think a gun-toting honey with a name like Billie Jo's going to show up, Kate Mara appears as that spotter's widow, only her name is Sarah.

Bobby Lee takes on the feds, trying to clear his name, aided by Sarah, with whom he almost develops a relationship, and the story would have been better had Bobby Lee been afforded the chance to take her on the chase. Instead, agent Nick Memphis, referencing the Napoleonic wars, is catching on to the conspiracy's inconsistencies.

With hovering black helicopters and arbitrary assertions about President Kennedy's assassination, Shooter shifts from buddy picture to romance to thriller without picking up any rhythm. Other problems present themselves, too, such as the original assassination scene remaining unclear for too long. Shooter is best taken as standard good guys versus bad guys—forget the conspiracy nonsense—and it seems like that's the track Fuqua wants to take.

Shooter is, however, unfocused, weighed down by subplots and by a particularly extraneous assault late in the action. Wahlberg—whose highly trained character is seen in the climactic semi-automatic shootout running everywhere without a helmet—is virtually inaudible throughout and he does not carry the picture, though his character is limited.

Shooter locks and loads with an implicit message that post-9/11 justice may require acts of vigilantism, and, while it's wide of the mark, it lands on the silhouette.

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Hunting for Some Sense