Quick, how many ways can a conspiracy thriller end? And if you can’t choose one of them, why not show them all?
Bob Lee Swagger (Mark Wahlberg) is an ex special ops military man living alone on a mountain. Colonel Isaac Johnson (Danny Glover) has tracked Swagger down due to his specialty: he’s one of the few shooters in the world that can make a shot at over a mile away. Johnson pitches to Swagger that someone is planning to assassinate the US president, and sources say it will be from over a mile away. Faster than you can say “conspiracy theory,” Swagger finds himself on the run from both the police and the FBI while trying to clear his name, and only a lone agent named Nick Memphis (Michael Pe?±a) even suspects that Swagger has been set up by his own government.
Shooter suffers from every conspiracy theory thriller that has come before it. Not only does it steal from the best, it also steals from the worst. Unlike the tight, focused plots of Matt Damon’s Bourne series, Shooter goes for over-the-top right out of the gate. It’s so obviously a setup that even a casual movie goer would spot everything that’s wrong. Worse yet, the characters throughout Shooter are all geniuses on paper, so not only do they know they’re being set up, they know that you know and know that you know that they know. After a very short time, the twists within twists become so laughable that you can’t take anything seriously and wonder if it was all done intentionally as a parody.
Mark Wahlberg is a better actor than this, and based on the demeanor of his character, you have to wonder if he was mad all the time because he was in character or because he agreed to make the movie. Kate Mara stars as a corn-fed country girl love interest and future bargaining chip, so anyone with breasts could have played her part for the little she was given to do. And let it be said here that Danny Glover is getting way too old for this, but he still lends an ounce of credibility to a part that’s obviously more villainous than initially hinted at. Only Michael Peña seems to think that this particular feature is a chance to shine and nearly steals every scene he’s in as a rookie agent with a suspicious eye and who’s in way over his head.
Thrillers like Shooter crop up about once or twice a year, but very rarely with the pedigree cast that this film boats. Unfortunately, the cast isn’t put to good use in a plot that poorly amalgamates everything that has come before it with no regard toward originality. The message of the film seems to be that there are no more conspiracies to be found because all of them are already true. Congressmen are all corrupt and untouchable, military factions run independent of the US government, and one man can never make a difference… unless he’s really buff, has nothing to loose, and someone needs to kill off all the bad guys. The only thing missing here is a laugh track.
(a one skull recommendation out of four)