Friday, March 30, 2007

I liked 'Shooter'

I didn’t know until the opening credits that director Antoine Fuqua’s movie Shooter, starring Mark Wahlberg, Danny Glover and Kate Mara, was based on Stephen Hunter’s novel Point of Impact. Hunter is the Pulitzer-winning movie critic at The Washington Post, formerly of The Baltimore Sun.

I had read Point of Impact several years ago, and subsequent books based on the central character, Marine sniper Bob Lee Swagger, played by Wahlberg. I knew the basic plot, including the surprise at the end, so I immediately was thrown off-balance with the inevitable question: Is this movie going to work for me?

I loved it. It’s an entertaining, gut-level movie about survival and justice, and it basically does right by its source – a good indication being that Hunter showed up at the premier.

Wahlberg’s Swagger holds together and never slacks within a fairly tight pace, except the character, approached through the film, is missing some dimensionality, some echo of internal vibe. In the novel, Swagger was haunted and bitter. In the film, Swagger experiences tragedy and has an immediate need for survival, but he doesn’t have the haunted, bitter inner world. In Three Kings, one of my favorite films, Wahlberg’s character wanted to get gold, and wanted to get back to his wife and infant daughter, so he came off as a convincing character. Even in The Departed, Wahlberg’s character seemed to have more layers, and he was only a supporting actor. In Shooter, as much as Wahlberg’s Swagger liked his dog, even the pooch didn’t appear to be a motivating factor. He’s just executing the plot line, not totally two-dimensional, not quite three-dimensional.

A slightly chubby Michael Pena understood the novel’s character Nick Memphis, the FBI failure whose chance meeting with Swagger changes the lives of both characters.

If I say too much about Danny Glover’s role, it might be a give-away. I’ve never seen him play this type of role.

You know the constructed world of the film has a moral compass when bad guy Ned Beatty, playing a senator, says, “Truth is what I say it is!” Then again, as Swagger’s actions imply, when the powerful put themselves above the law, vigilante justice works just fine.

The political undertone of the movie has taken a hit in some conservative circles. They have some points, but maybe I don’t care because I don’t go to Hollywood movies for political or historical accuracy.

I tagged some glitches in the film:

1. As Swagger shops in a general store in Lynchburg, Virginia, highly attractive, fashionably dressed women pass through in the background, and they just don’t seem like they would be the norm in a Lynchburg general store.

2. A steel-mesh hanging basket in a kitchen scene with Mara holds fruit that looks way too fake.
Cool parts:

1. The first scene with Sarah Fenn (Mara); ga-ga.

2. What Swagger did with a bottle of water, salt, sugar, and some kind of culinary implement apparently used for injecting turkeys.

3. A ghastly contraption the bad guys attached to Memphis.

4. Big-ass explosions.

I saw this movie in the best cinema around, at Colonial Mall between Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach. The old cinema at the mall was terrible. Then someone came along, tore the old place to the ground, and rebuilt with stadium seating, top-notch digital projectors, and a thunderous sound system. Better still, it’s about a half-mile from my house.

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