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Monday, August 27, 2007

DVD REVIEW: Shooter (2007) ***

Shooter (2007) poster one

R for strong graphic violence and some language.
2 hrs. 6 min.

written by: Jonathan Lemkin (screenplay) & Stephen Hunter (novel 'Point of Impact')
produced by: Lorenzo Di Bonaventura & Ric Kidney
directed by: Antoine Fuqua

Here's a well executed movie that feels like when of those solid, well-paced thrillers from the 80's. That's a compliment. It'd be far too easy to dismiss director Antoine Fuqua's film as mindless multiplex mayhem, but that's not the case here. there's a lil bit more to this movie than what you might be expecting. Underneath all the conspiracy and crazy action, there's actually a good degree of jabbing at the current administration. Imagine that! It's not out of context, it definitely fits the feel and story. You have to wonder just how many viewers caught on to the not-so-thinly-veiled caricatures of the government's elite. Watching this film and noticing all this, I had no idea if any political statements I was catching was in Washington Post film critic Stephen Hunter's novel (upon which Fuqua's film is based). Could be that adapter Jonathan Lemkin elevated a few things, making it a bit more timely a film that would otherwise be nothing more than a straight-to-video snooze.

Danny Glover , Elias Koteas , Mark Wahlberg , Rade Serbedzija and Jonathan Walker in Paramount Pictures' Shooter

The....um, shooter is Bob Lee Swagger (Mark Wahlberg), who, if his name didn't give it away, is a die-hard American patriot, proud to serve his country and lay down his life, if need be. Trained as a covert scout sniper, Swagger's got an eye for laying waste to targets that are far beyond the range of most normal gunmen. After a black-ops mission goes sour in Ethiopa where his spotter, Danny (Lane Garrison) is killed in a messed-up government fiasco, he hangs it up and spends his days in the mountains of Wyoming with his dog. Of course if he stayed there, what what the shooter be shooting? Wildlife? Well, the government knows his number still and Swagger gets dragged back into service by shady Colonel Isaac Johnson (Danny Glover). Asked to map out a hypothetical assassination attempt on the president's life, it's not long before Swagger finds himself framed for a murder he didn't commit and on the run with two bullets in him, trying to keep away from the long arm of the corrupt, morally twisted law.

Swagger makes it to Kentucky where he manages to take refuge with Donnie's widow Sarah Fenn (Kate Mara). She saves his life by removing the bullets embedded in his body, and soon a healing Swagger hooks up with the only who other person he thinks can help him, novice FBI agent Nick Memphis ( Michael Peña). Turns out Memphis was blamed for allowing Swagger's escape, and in the process of being disciplined for negligence has independently learned that Swagger may have been framed for the assassination by rogue elements within CIA. Swagger hooks up with Memphis just in time as he winds up saving his life from some rogue government spooks, in one of the many very cool sniper scenes.

Mark Wahlberg and Michael Pena in Paramount Pictures' Shooter

The film unfolds like a surprisingly old-school action flick, replete with tough guy walks to camera filmed in slo-mo, a wise old munitions expert (Levon Helm, formerly of The Band) who guides Swagger in his quest and devious machinations overseen by high-ranking government officials, like Senator Charles F. Meachum (Ned Beatty). Plenty of stuff goes boom, in fact stuff goes boom big-time; Mark Wahlberg gets to mutter plenty of giggle-inducing lines under his breath -- "I don't think you understand - these people killed my dog" is one of the more amusing snippets -- and Fuqua gets to show off just what he does best: filming frenetic action sequences that look incredibly alluring and brutally violent, often simultaneously.

There is plenty to like here if you think this kinda movie is your bag. The casting was good, I usually am not a huge fan of Wahlberg but he fit the part well here. I have to say it does have some of the best sniper scenes I've ever seen, so if you're into the technical and precision aspects of taking out a target from miles away, then this one's for you. Another thing that sold me on the film was actor Elias Koteas as a baddie henchmen working for Glover's Colonel. Anything he's in, I'm there. Unfortunately. Rhona Mitra is underused as possibly the only FED who can assist Nick Memphis in helping Swagger. Too Bad, I like her. Appearing to be mindless on the surface but raging against the political machine just beneath it, "Shooter" ultimately comes off as an odd blend of slightly lefty while maintaining some deeply red state beliefs about, among other things, the right to bear arms. It's a little cheesy, a little murky but entertaining in a way that only big-budget studio shoot-'em-ups can be.

Special Features:

Fuqua gives an extremely low-key, informative commentary track that walks the viewer through everything from the visual effects and the film's realism to the politics of the film and his reactions to the material. The second featurette "Survival of the Fittest: The Making of Shooter," presented in anamorphic widescreen, details the creation of the film, while the seven minute, 18 second featurette "Independence Hall," presented in anamorphic widescreen, features the film's military advisor talking about the film's pivotal assassination sequence and seven deleted scenes. Trailers for Zodiac and Black Snake Moan ar e also included.

Danny Glover and director Antoine Fuqua on the set of Paramount Pictures' Shooter

The Skinny:

  • Keanu Reeves was the original choice to play Bob Lee Swagger.
  • The book which Bob Lee Swagger reads in his home is 9/11 Commission Report.
  • Wahlberg had to lose 20 pounds to give Bob Lee Swagger the slim and ripped look of a field sniper to make the film more realistic.
  • Singer Eminem turned down the villain role.
  • The sudden cut to the Montana Senator shows him firing a rifle near the camera in hunting gear very similar to Dick Cheney; he then sits next to a large table embroidered with 'CMF'.
  • The high caliber rifle that Swagger owns and is framed with is a Cheyenne Tactical M200 Intervention. It fires a .408 caliber projectile accurately out to and beyond 2000 meters.
  • The portraits on the walls in the room where the conspirators meet in Langley, Virginia are all of Republican presidents.
  • In the scene after Sarah Fenn first talks to Memphis & Swagger is seen standing outside with an Eagle's hat and jacket on. Wahlberg plays for the Eagles in the movie 2006's "Invincible".
  • Theatrical trailer features a scene not used in the film where a small jet is blown up via remote control.
  • Shipped to some theaters under the name "Stars"
  • This was the final film to play the landmark Mann National Theater in Westwood, CA before it closed on April 20, 2007.
  • Stephen Hunter, the author on whose novel the film is based, is a Pulitizer Prize winning film critic for the Washington Post.
  • Athens, Tennessee, the residence of the firearms expert Swagger and Nick visited, was the location of the "Battle of Athens" where in 1946 armed citizens removed the corrupt local government and restored free elections.
  • The left-wing website zmag.org can be seen on Swagger's laptop, Zmag publishes articles by, amongst other academics, Noam Chomsky.
  • The FBI agent helping the shooter is wearing a Che Guevara T-Shirt in a scene.
  • Filmed mainly in British Columbia, Canada.
  • The film features some of the most realistic sniper tactics displayed in a movie at the time of its release. The filmmakers employed former U.S. Marine scout sniper Patrick Garrity, in order to train Mark Wahlberg in accurate sniper tactics. Wahlberg was already in excellent physical condition, Garrity submitted him to a very rigorous and realistic sniper training.
  • Crucial to the movie was for Wahlberg to learn shooting both left and right handed (the actor is left handed), as he had to switch shooting posture throughout the movie, due to Swagger's sustained injuries. He was also trained to adjust a weapon's scope, judge effects of wind to a shot, master rapid bolt manipulation and develop special breathing skills.
  • His training concluded with extreme distance shooting (up to 1100 yards) and the use of ghillie suits. Following the success of Wahlberg's training, Fuqua was impressed enough to appoint Garrity as the film's military technical advisor.
  • Throughout the film Swagger uses an array of sniper weapons, among which are the USMC M40A1 and Barrett M82 sniper rifles in the African opening sequences, CheyTac Intervention in .408 Cheytac used to shoot the Dinty Moore stew can and Remington 700P in .308 Winchester.
  • Also when Col. Johnson first approaches Swagger's house, his concealed knife is a SOG Twitch XL. He also uses a SOG Daggert 2 as part of his field equipment.
  • In the book Which Lie Did I Tell?, William Goldman talks about being approached to write this movie; he ultimately never became involved.
  • The first two victims of Swagger are machine gunner and driver of an Unimog light truck rigged as a technical.
  • Ads for the movie could be found in some levels of the game Rainbow Six: Vegas.
  • The book Swagger is reading in his home is the 9/11 Commission Report. Mark Wahlberg was scheduled to fly on one of the hijacked planes but changed his plans at the last minute.

Image:Shooter poster.jpg

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