Once again, I find myself watching a movie that is based off of a book that I never read. I remember seeing the trailers for this movie and thinking it was just another generic action movie. At some point I got bored and ended up getting a used copy of it as a spur of the moment purchase. So I ended up watching it and almost immediately afterwards, decided to buy the book that the movie was based on just to compare the two. As is usually the case, I liked the book better than the movie but you can judge for yourself as I watch today’s movie, Shooter.
The plot: On a mission in Africa in a country they are not supposed to be in, Gunnery Sergeant Bob Lee Swagger and his spotter Donnie Fenn are keeping watch over a US team as they head back to Ethiopia, taking out a military patrol vehicle when as it approaches them. When a second, larger force is spotted chasing after the US team, Swagger begins shooting at them, taking out several of the men/drivers and forcing the enemy force to focus on trying to attack them, rather than chasing after the other soldiers. They call in what is happening but the base in Ethiopia shuts down the channel, as the base commander deems them expendable. When a helicopter shows up to help the opposing forces, Donnie is killed but Swagger uses a CheyTac Intervention to take out the helicopter. 3 years later, Swagger is living in a self-imposed exile in the Wind River Range portion of the Rockies in Wyoming with only his dog as company when he is approached by Colonel Isaac Johnson. Swagger is dismissive and tells them to leave but after Johnson shows him his Congressional Medal of Honor, he convinces Swagger to give him 5 minutes to talk. Inside Swagger’s home, Johnson tells him that he needs Swagger to plan a presidential assassination, explaining that the received intel on a possible assassination attempt that will occur in one of three cities and they want Swagger’s help in preventing it. Bob tells them he won’t do it and takes a picture of their vehicle’s license plate to check their identity. After the seeing if the shot that Johnson talked about was possible, Swagger decides to help out and after going to the three cities given to him, tells Johnson that Philadelphia is the likely location. Johnson convinces Swagger to help him in spotting the possible sniper’s location and they head to Philadelphia, where the arch bishop of Ethiopia is giving the President a medal. As the President arrives, local police officer Stanley Timmons arrives at Johnson’s command post and introduces himself to Swagger, who comments about Timmons’ holster being unsnapped. When the President gets up to the podium to speak, Swagger tells them the sniper is loaded and about to fire so they should take him out now but as he turns to face Johnson, Timmons shoots Swagger. At the same time, the sniper fires but hits the arch bishop, not the President, causing a panic at the scene. Swagger falls out of the window and manages to escape, while Jack Payne, one of Johnson’s men, berates Timmons for missing him. The injured Swagger makes his way to the street, where he encounters FBI Agent Nick Memphis. Memphis draws his gun on Swagger but Swagger manages to disarm him and after telling Memphis he didn’t shoot the President, he restrains Memphis then takes his gun and car. As Timmons calls in a manhunt on Swagger, Swagger ducks into a car wash to try and stall being detected while he works on stopping the bleeding from his injuries. When the reports come in on his location, Swagger attempts to escape and after a collision with a truck, crashes into the river. Divers are called in and find the car but there is no sign of Swagger, who holds onto a rope on the side of a barge to get out of the manhunt zone and get ashore on the other side of the river, where he steals a truck and drives out of the city. After stopping in a small town, Swagger knocks out the power to a local shop so that he can buy some supplies and not get caught. After buying the supplies, he sneaks into a auto garage and uses the supplies as a makeshift field medical kit, then does his best to patch himself up in order to stay alive. Meanwhile, Agent Memphis is demoted by his superior for “embarrassing the agency” and placed in the tipline call center. When he receives a call from the clerk about what Swagger bought, he tries to tell another agent but the are dismissive of his theory. Swagger makes his way to Kentucky and pays a visit to Donnie’s widow, Sarah, to ask for her help. Though she is reluctant at first, Sarah agrees to help Swagger, who had gone there thinking she was a nurse but learns she had given up on that idea after Donnie died. Back in Philadelphia, Memphis is talking with fellow agent Alourdes Galindo and telling her his suspicions about Swagger’s guilt and says he wants to speak with Timmons, as he doesn’t believe his story, but Galindo tells him that Timmons was killed by a mugger. As Memphis continues to investigate, he checks out the church and notices some holes in the floor, which he learns were from a tripod mounted remote controlled sniper weapons system. Back in Kentucky, Sarah performs the necessary surgery on Swagger to remove the bullets and then agrees to help him in his plan to flush out Johnson. Sarah goes to Philadelphia with Swagger and he tells her to meet with Memphis and hand him the photos of the plate and VIN number for Johnson’s car. Swagger is watching their meeting but as Memphis leaves, Swagger is approached by two cops and forced to incapacitate them and escape. Memphis begins looking into the information that Sarah gave him and, with Galindo’s help, learns that they are connected to some high end military contractors but as Galindo is telling Memphis this, he ends up being kidnapped by a team of contractors. They torture him for information, then attach a device to his arm to make him shoot himself but Swagger rescues Memphis and after the two talk, Memphis agrees to help Swagger. They travel to Athens, TN to speak with a gun expert and ask him how to fire a bullet from one rifle and make it match the grooves from a different one. He then asks if anyone else could have taken the shot and the expert tells him of one other man, Michael Sandor, and Swagger realizes that he met the man. Memphis calls Galindo to ask for her help in tracking down Sander, just as Johnson decides to draw Swagger and Memphis out by offering him up. Johnson then meets with Senator Charles F. Meachum, who is in on Johnson’s operation, and Meachum tells him to make sure Swagger is killed so Johnson has Payne go and grab Sarah as insurance. When Galindo gives Memphis Sandor’s location, Swagger and Memphis go buy some supplies to make some homemade explosives, then Swagger gives Memphis a crash course in being a sniper/spotter. They head to Sandor’s house, and Swagger makes his way inside, taking out the guards along the way. When he finds Sandor and questions him, Sandor tells him about how military contractors had killed a village in Africa for the purpose of allowing an oil pipeline to go through it, then buried the bodies under a pumping station. He then informs Swagger that he was assigned to cover their escape but he wasn’t supposed to survive. Outside, a team arrives to kill Swagger and Memphis warns him while inside, Sandor tells Swagger that Johnson has Sarah before he kills himself. Swagger tells Memphis to get to a pre-arranged position and start detonating the explosives as Swagger shoots his way out of the house and the two manage to kill the team sent after them. Memphis calls the FBI to tell them he has Swagger in custody but that he can’t bring him in just yet. As soon as he hangs up, Swagger receives a call from Johnson, who had been listening in on the phone call and they arrange to meet, with Johnson agreeing to bring Meachum to the meeting and Swagger will give him the recording of Sandor’s confession in exchange for Sarah. Johnson, Payne, Sarah, and Meachum arrive on the mountain and they see a figure approaching when the figure is shot. Suddenly, a second shot rings out as Swagger kills the sniper, then kills two more counter snipers, while the figure, revealed to be Memphis, continues up to the mountain and removes the metal plate that protected him from being killed. As Payne yells out that Swagger can’t shoot him without risking his shooting Sarah, Swagger shoots the shotgun from his hand, then shoots his arm off. Swagger then approaches the group and after having Memphis disarm Meachum and Johnson, Sarah grabs Meachum’s gun and kills Payne. Swagger and Meachum then talk and as the FBI approaches, due to Memphis telling them where they would be, Swagger burns the recording, as if it was still out there then he, Sarah, and Memphis would be killed over it. Swagger is taken into custody and brought before a meeting with the Attorney General, Memphis, Memphis’ superior, and Johnson. Swagger admits that the gun the FBI found was his but after he places a bullet in it and shows that it won’t fire, he explains that he swapped the firing pin in all of his guns before he left, making it so that none of them would fire if stolen. Memphis then shows the Attorney General images from the file of the mass grave, but the Attorney General says that since the crimes occurred in another country, he had no jurisdiction over the matter and Johnson walks out of the room. The Attorney General approaches Swagger and speaks with him briefly before telling him he is free to go and orders him released. Some time later, Meachum and Johnson are talking in Meachum’s hunting cabin when Swagger kills them and causes the cabin to explode. Swagger then makes his way down the mountain, where Sarah is waiting in a car, and they drive off together.
Shooter received mixed reviews from the critics, holding a 48% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “With an implausible story and numerous plot holes, Shooter fails to distinguish itself from other mindless action-thrillers.” The scene where Swagger shoots a counter-sniper through the rifle scope and hits him in the head is based on an infamous kill by U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Hathcock, who killed a counter-sniper in Vietnam by shooting him through the scope and hitting him in the eye. Shooter was a modest hit at the box office, earning $95.7 million off of a $61 million budget and years later, would spawn a TV show based off of the movie.
I still think the book was better than the movie, but this was a decent movie in itself, despite the general feeling of being a generic action flick. The acting was good, with Mark Wahlberg (Swagger) and Michael Pena (Memphis) doing great in their roles and showed great chemistry acting off of each other. I also thought that Danny Glover (Johnson), Ned Beatty (Meachum), and Elias Koteas (Payne) did a great job in their roles. The plot was a pretty good thriller, feeling a little bit like The Fugitive in the whole innocent man trying to prove his innocence, just with more guns involved. The aspect of Swagger finding out that he unknowingly helped cover for black ops contractors doing something illegal added more motivation to his actions and helped give a better sense of purpose to his wanting to prove his innocence. The special effects in the gun fights were good for the most part, though in some cases they were toned down according to the sniper expert involved in the film. It is fairly generic movie but good enough to keep you entertained if you want to give it a shot.
Rating: 3 out of 5