Do a Shot: every time Swagger says something badass.
Take a Drink: whenever someone gets shot.
Do a Shot: each time Swagger outsmarts everyone else.
Take a Drink: every time you think Swagger and his friend’s widow are about to bang.
By: Hawk Ripjaw (Three Beers) –
Bob Lee Swagger (Mark Wahlberg) retired from the service after his partner was killed during a mission, and lives up in the hills of Wyoming where he shoots at stuff, reads right-wing news, and has his dog trained to bring him beers (so, pretty much everyone in Wyoming. Trust me, I live there).
It’s not long before he’s visited by Colonel Isaac Johnson (Danny Glover), who claims to have knowledge of an attempt on the President’s life and need his expertise to know how it might happen because Swagger is the Best Marksman in the World. Seriously, that motherfucker blew up a helicopter by shooting at the rotor. Swagger reluctantly agrees, but in a move that nobody saw coming, the Ethiopian Archbishop standing next to the President is assassinated and Johnson and his buddies turn on Swagger and frame him for it. Swagger immediately gets Re-Bourne as the badass of yesteryear, and goes on the run to clear his name. Nick Memphis (Michael Pena, stone-cold serious), rookie FBI agent, senses something is wrong and tries to track down the truth on his own. And he doesn’t just track the truth, he shoots the FUCK out of it.
It’s the classic formula for this type of movie: bad guys try to double-cross the ultimate badass and that badass spends the next 90 minutes outsmarting the absolute shit out of them. Not only is Swagger one of the best snipers in the world, he operates on a near-godlike level of awareness of how everything works. Did you know that there’s a secret stash of first aid shit inside the backseat of an FBI cruiser? I didn’t, but Swagger does, and he hacks into the seat and dresses two bullet wounds in the time it takes the car to get through an automated car wash.
And then he, uh…inhales the air from whipped cream cans to pass out so his late partner’s widow can operate on his bullet wounds?
No wait, that is actually totally a thing.
And while it is a mid-2000s movie, it definitely has flourishes of old-school action and an occasionally grim sense of humor, particularly in the way it revels in some impressively graphic sniper violence. It is a savage delight to see Swagger enact violent long-range vengeance on a series of evil characters that exist purely for you to hate them enough to want to them to get murdered.
And the dialogue is pure 90’s awesome, no matter who it’s coming from.
“Tennessee is the patron state of shooting stuff.”
“Your moral compass is so fucked up I’d be surprised if you found your way to the parking lot.”
And, of course:
“I don’t think you understand. These boys killed my dog.”
There it is, the end-all, be-all prime motivation for mass murder in action movies. The crown jewel of revenge motivation.
While Swagger pulls off epic feats of badassery and manages to stay five steps ahead of every other character through the power of America, Michael Pena’s Nick Memphis gets coincidental revelations dumped into his lap like it’s Plot Christmas. Memphis is the poster child for perseverance, playing the numbers game of research and looking tired and concentrated until he arrives at the part of the script where he learns something new and groundbreaking about the case. Memphis exists for the convenience of the plot, and like other pieces of the film, his arc is left dangling with not much explanation. I’m not asking for an average action thriller to be as airtight as a Mamet drama, but I do need to know why the FBI in this movie is about as smart as a high school production about the FBI.
If you haven’t been able to tell already, Shooter is about as concerned with subtlety as a superhero film is concerned with collateral damage. That’s to the movie’s goofy credit for the most part, but it also lays it on remarkably thick when it comes to a ridiculous liberal bias. It’s implied that Swagger’s high-ranking superiors abandoned him. All of the villains are part of the government. Another villain is implied to have slaughtered a village to make way for a pipeline. And almost none of this is a plot twist. We get it—the government is corrupt. And you get three guesses who the evil, cackling, gun-loving Senator is probably supposed to be a reference to.
Really, Shooter is mostly just an average action thriller from the mid-2000s with some minor issues with plotting. But it has all of the subtlety of a bald eagle flexing in front of an American flag, and in a really silly way. One thing that I hated about Fuqua’s Olympus Has Fallen was its relentlessly bleak tone and how it was a total bummer for like the whole movie, even as it gave Michael Bay movies a run for their money for the number of American Flags shown per minute. Shooter is similar, but at least the script is a bit more fun this time, particularly when it comes to Ned Beatty’s moustache-twirling villain. It’s a dumb, preposterous movie, but more than enough fun to warrant a rental.