Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Illustration for article titled Shooter

Based on the novel Point Of Impact by Washington Post film critic Stephen Hunter, Shooter is a Charles Bronson movie that thinks it's The Parallax View. What begins as standard-issue airplane fare—equal parts In The Line Of Fire and The Fugitive, but with a gun fetishist's love for hardware—gradually morphs into a full-scale vigilante picture, sparked by the sort of deep government paranoia that would play well to separatist militia groups. The film thinks it's knowing about political power, but there's no substance behind its little conspiracy theories about villages razed for oil pipelines or evil senators who puff stogies while orchestrating mass murder. The difference between Shooter and the '70s paranoid thrillers it emulates is the difference between disillusionment and cheap cynicism. Movies like The Parallax View and All The President's Men were made out of concern that the government had gotten away from the people; Shooter just uses dirty politics as an excuse for gruesome headshots.

Trading his natural charisma for tough-guy stoicism, Mark Wahlberg stars as an expert marksman who retreats into seclusion after the military leaves him stranded during a secret operation in Nigeria. He's drawn back into the fray when a consortium of government higher-ups, led by Danny Glover, asks for his help in thwarting an assassination attempt on the President. When the operation turns out to be a double-cross, a wounded Wahlberg flees the scene with seemingly every law-enforcement agent in three states on his tail. His only allies are Michael Peña, a disgraced FBI agent who starts to doubt the official line, and Kate Mara, the widow of Wahlberg's former spotter, who provides temporary cover and dresses his wounds.

At a certain point, the search for justice becomes such a farce that Shooter crosses over into an exceedingly ugly revenge film, with Wahlberg's trusty rifle popping heads like zits from a mile away. As the body count increases, the kills become so gratuitous that the effect is numbing, like watching a line of metal ducks get pinged at the state fair. Director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) keeps the action moving efficiently, but he doesn't know when to stop piling it on, and eventually, Wahlberg's army of one becomes more a comic-book vigilante than a righteously disgruntled patriot. He'll be a big hit at the next NRA meeting.