Although it lacks the necessary focus to deliver on its potential, Antoine Fuqua's "Shooter" is a frequently thrilling exercise, a somewhat over-extended entry into the ever-popular vigilante justice genre.
Mark "Oscar nominee Marky Mark" Wahlberg plays Bob Lee Swagger, a former military scout sniper set up by a vast government conspiracy (Is there any other kind?) in an apparent plot to assassinate the president. Silly government conspiracy! If they'd done their homework, they'd have discovered that in addition to being an expert with all manner of explosives and firearms, Swagger is an a resourceful and unkillable military strategist and he knows how to hold a grudge. With the help of one sexy gal (Kate Mara) and one dopey FBI agent (Michael Pena), Swagger is about to bring the fight to the conspiracy.
"Shooter" is structured as a pure star vehicle for Wahlberg, who manages to command the screen without varying his expression for over two hours, an impressive feat. When he isn't being intensely violent, he's dropping deadpan one-liners, making the character far more sympathetic than he must have been on the pages of Jonathan Lemkin's script.
Fuqua stages the action scenes with the requisite testosterone-driven flair, making particularly fine use of his location settings, including the streets of Philadelphia and a remote glacier. One thing neither Fuqua nor Lemkin were able to master, though, was the film's ending. "Shooter" reaches limps along for at least 20 minutes after its action climax and eventually wears out its welcome.
Although 15 or 20 additional minutes could have been cut, the DVD includes 10 minutes of deleted scenes, including several sequences that featured in the film's pre-release ad campaign. The bulk of the trimmed scenes feature Pena's character, who serves a necessary role in the plot's structure, but detracts from Swagger's single-minded momentum.
The 20-minute featurette "Survival of the Fittest: The Making of 'Shooter'" concentrates on Wahlberg's sniper training (he was able to hit a stationary target from 1100 meters, we're told) and the project's commitment to technical accuracy in everything from the sniper-spotter relationship to the construction of sniper Ghillie suits used in the movie.
Less interesting is the "Independence Hall" featurette, a seven-minute refresher course on Philadelphia's important role in American history. It feels like a quid pro quo included in exchange for letting the filmmakers use the site as a location for a political assassination.
Fuqua's commentary is dry and only occasionally enlightening, pending too much time recounting what's happening on screen.
The film's visual transfer is flawless, but the DVD's soundtrack could be clearer. You've got Wahlberg mumbling, Danny Glover slurring his words, Mara affecting a serviceable deep-South twang and Rade Serbedzija talking like Rade Serbedzija. I doubt I missed much, though.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times