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Wednesday, March 21, 2007 10:51 pm

A political ax to grind

Shooter isn’t a typical action flick

Shooter Running time 2:05 Rated R ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East
Untitled Document Shooter Running time 2:05 Rated R ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East

Shooter finds Marine sharpshooter Bob Lee Swagger (Mark Wahlberg) in Africa, covering the retreat of an elite American unit that’s returning from a classified mission.  Though he’s able to hit his targets from as far as a mile away, his location is compromised, his partner is killed, and he’s left behind enemy lines to fend for himself.  Fast-forward three years, and we find Swagger living in the Rocky Mountains, bitter over the way his comrades left him to die and cynical about the American government in general. Col. Isaac Johnson (Danny Glover) knows Swagger’s mindset, yet tracks him down to ask whether he’ll do a service for his country: foil a plot to assassinate the president. Reluctantly Swagger agrees, only to be framed for the crime.      All of this occurs during the film’s tautly constructed first half-hour, and what follows is Swagger’s desperate attempt to clear his name with the help of some unlikely allies. His slain partner’s fiancée, Sarah (Kate Mara), proves tough and smart — a welcome respite from the usual portrayal of women in films of this sort. Equally inventive is the addition of FBI agent Nick Memphis (Michael Peña), who tries to salvage his reputation at the agency after letting Swagger slip through his fingers on the day of the assassination. In trying to crack the case, he concocts his own conspiracy theory, realizes that Swagger is innocent, and actually tries to help him clear his name.     Although all of this is highly entertaining, it’s the political ax that the film grinds throughout that makes it intriguing.  There’s no question about where director Antoine Fuqua; Wahlberg; Stephen Hunter, writer of the novel on which Shooter is based; and screenwriter Jonathan Lemkin stand with regard to their view of the current government.  When Swagger is asked to help protect the president, he replies, “I don’t really like the president that much.” It’s a sentiment most of us, in the real world, can understand. Shooter is not only a superbly made actioner but also a mirror of our fractured, bitter societal mindset. Now that’s what I call exciting filmmaking.
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