Saturday, April 14, 2007


RUNTIME: 124 min.
RATING: *1/2

I was under the na├»ve impression that the Academy award syndrome acts only in the case of actresses, Halle Berry (MONSTER’S BALL) and CATWOMAN, Marisa Tomei (MY COUSIN VINNY, IN THE BEDROOM) and her obscure choices continuing with this year’s WILD HOGS. But Mark Wahlberg, nominated last year for his scene stealing performance in THE DEPARTED, has just showed me that the syndrome is pretty much universal. How else could you explain an actor’s choice of a super dumb, dull actioner after being finally recognized for his acting abilities?
SHOOTER is based on Stephen Hunter’s novel Point of Impact. The tone is a bit grim in all the three Bob Swagger novels as against the witty reviews one gets to read by Hunter at The Washington Post. Mark Wahlberg plays retired US Army sniper who has grown disillusioned after a botched mission somewhere in the Horn of Africa. The shadowy government officials finally get to him, somewhere in the hills with his dog (reminding me of Schwarzenegger’s COMMANDO) and persuade him to help them stop a marksman in taking out the US President. It all turns out to be a conspiracy and Swagger realizes that he has been used as a patsy. Being the object of a nationwide manhunt, Swagger decides to take the battle back to the doorstep that started it all. The most horrible thing with SHOOTER isn’t that it is dumb. THE MARINE was dumb, COMMANDO was dumb, Steven Seagal’s movies are dumb but they know they are dumb and do not try to tread the high road. They instead go for the guilty pleasure which we all enjoy. But SHOOTER, which so desperately wants to be a thinking man’s action movie, asks us to ponder over its political talk. And when we do that, it turns out to be a heap load of gibberish, all the while being a dull action movie with a few thrills thrown in there. If you aren’t one of those who have just discovered the world of action movies, you would second guess the entire plot the minute Danny Glover’s Colonel Isaac Johnson puts the outlines of the mission before Swagger. The whole movie is so by-the-numbers, it renders soap operas and WWE fights bristling with unpredictability.
There sure is a lot of sniper-talk, humidity affecting the target and all that garbage, stuff a 12-year old fed on Call of Duty and Medal of Honor. But there’s too less of the actual sniping, the calmness, the concentration surrounding the sniper before the kill. Anyone who has read Gerald Seymour’s action novel HOLDING THE ZERO would exactly know what I mean. There is supposed to be a difference between a sniper and a machine gun carrying John J Rambo. That is what makes snipers so cool, apart from the big guns. SHOOTER disappointingly has too less of that and too much of brainless political mumbo-jumbo. Hollywood hasn’t been too kind to snipers and the best movie to come on them has to be ENEMY AT THE GATES, which by the way was way below par. For me, the finest moment for snipers in Hollywood has to be Barry Pepper’s turn as Pvt. Jackson and his fantastic shot at the scope of the rival marksman. SHOOTER here is nowhere near the top, although it aspires to be. It rather could be slotted right below Tom Berenger’s SNIPER and SNIPER 2.
Mark Wahlberg barely manages to break par here. The fast-talking idiosyncrasy of THE DEPARTED is gone; all that remains is a monotone. Wahlberg speaks very fast, trying to show attitude when all he comes up with is a dull, tired performance. He’s a fantastic actor; BOOGIE NIGHTS, THE BIG HIT and THE DEPARTED prove more than that. Rather his last military movie, the hugely underrated masterpiece THREE KINGS had such a fantastic performance from him. But here, he’s way below average and is one of the movie’s prime weaknesses. If at all Wahlberg wanted to mix coolness and attitude with this oddly gullible character, he should have taken a leaf out of Matt Damon’s performance in the Jason Bourne movies. Damon’s performance although impossible to match by an actor of Wahlberg’s caliber, surely is a study in how to act in a thinking man’s action movie.
Antoine Fuqua proves yet again that TRAINING DAY was a flash in the pan, and the flash was because of Denzel Washington. I bet there’s not a director who has scaled new heights, rather jumped to new depths in pretentious stupid action movies. Can anybody beat TEARS OF THE SUN and KING ARTHUR? Nope, not unless you are Antoine Fuqua and the movie is SHOOTER. KING ARTHUR wanted to be the next GLADIATOR, for me it is one of the worst movies ever. I don’t even want to speak of TEARS OF THE SUN and SHOOTER here is all political. It is not Fuqua alone but screenwriter Jonathan Lemkin (RED PLANET) who has adapted a perfectly intelligent plot into a dumb movie. I mean the bad guys are a costume away from attaining comic book villain status. And all this when the movie is supposed to be embedded in reality. I watched THE MARINE a couple of weeks back and let me tell you, I enjoyed that a zillion times more than this ridiculous pretentious piece of junk. SHOOTER just doesn’t get the point that it is a sort of exploitation flick that should be fun to watch and not attempt to be brainy when it actually isn’t. No half measures please. SHOOTER misses the bull’s eye by a country mile.

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