There are a few things that you always need to have if you are going to make a decent American vigilante action movie. You must have a hero, filled to the brim with idealism and armed with a degree in kickin’ ass and taking names. You must also have at least one hot leading lady, and you earn bonus points for tastefully putting her in position to be half-naked through most of the film. And finally, without question there must exist plenty of gunfights and explosions to keep the audiences entertained in between the afore-mentioned partial nudity. These three elements never fail to give Average Joe Moviegoer his money’s worth, and it appears that Director Antoine Fuqua has figured that out.
Fuqua’s latest directorial effort is Shooter, starring Mark Wahlberg as Bob Lee Swaggert, an ex-Marine sniper who is jaded towards the government after losing his friend in a battle that should not have happened. Of course, like all heroes who lose their best buddy in the first scene, he retires from active duty to become a woodsman in a nondescript mountain range with his dog. His peace does not last long, as he is called upon by a shady Colonel (a very lispy Danny Glover) to solve a plot to shoot the President from over a mile away, a distance that Swaggert is more than capable of covering with his rifle. Of course, it turns out that the Colonel has lured Swaggert into a plot in which he gets framed for murder and is forced to go on the run. If it sounds clich©, that’s because it is clich©. But just because a movie has a few clich©s doesn’t mean it can’t be successful, remember those 3 must-haves.
One of the first must-haves that this film delivers with emphasis is the hot leading lady, courtesy of the recently over-exposed Kate Mara. She couldn’t pull off the cute, nerdy girl in Full of It, which released earlier this month, but she does do quite well as a down-home Kentucky girl who sits around the house in a white cotton t-shirt, sans bra. Her character fits into yet another clich© that can be overlooked, remember the buddy that our hero lost in the first scene? That is his widow. You do the math from there.
Vigilante flick necessity number two is that you must have plenty of bullets flying and bombs exploding or else your audience will have to dig deep into your story, and you don’t want that. Shooter racks up a decent body count, finding ways to kill off bad guys (and a few good guys) in believable yet entertaining ways. Some of the coolest shots in the film are delivered either through the scope of a rifle or at the receiving end of the shot. There are also some pretty slick pyrotechnic moments when our hero is fighting back against “the man,” and he is forced to make bombs that would raise even MacGyver’s eyebrow.
And finally, in order to make this whole thing work you have to tie it together with a hero that can personify the American spirit, spit in the face of the institution and take down three guys with two bullets in his torso all at once. Thankfully Mark Wahlberg comes through on all accounts. Coming off of a great supporting role in The Departed is reason enough to cause speculation about his ability to carry an entire film. But while his Departed co-star Matt Damon is stuck as the leading man in the borefest that is The Good Shepherd, Wahlberg gets to grow some trashy facial hair and shoot the arms off bad guys from 1000 yards. Let’s face it: some guys can do action, and some can do drama. Some can even do both. Mark Wahlberg is quickly becoming the latter.
And yeah, the film is filled with clich©s and it does get a bit preachy and political at times, but all that can be easily overlooked. Kate Mara is hot, Antoine Fuqua has a keen eye for violence, and Mark Wahlberg is becoming an undisputed acting powerhouse, what more do you really need?