Film Year: 2007
Film Length: 1 hour 55 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
BD Resolution: 1080p
BD Video Codec: MPEG-2 @ over 20MBPS
English Dolby Digital 5.1 640kps
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish
Film Rating: R
Release Date: July 31, 2007
Film Rating: ½/
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Michael Peña, Danny Glover, Kate Mara, Elias Koteas, Rhona Mitra, Rade Sherbedgia and Ned Beatty
Screenplay by: Jonathan Lemkin
Based upon the novel “Point of Impact” by Stephen Hunter
Directed by: Antoine Fuqua
Shooter is the latest release from Antoine Fuqua, the director who filmed Training Day. The film is a kind of modern hybrid of First Blood and The Bourne Identity, with several large scale action sequences strung together throughout the film and only the lightest of plot strands to hold the thing together. The film’s brief plot concerns a former Marine sniper who gets caught up in an possible assassination attempt, and winds up on the run for his life before inevitably turning the tables on his enemies. And for the first twenty minutes or so, the plot almost works, with Mark Wahlberg and Danny Glover turning in appropriately tense and moody performances. The initial beats of the story faithfully show the work of the long range sniper and the kind of planning and observation involved in the work. But once the action kicks in, any hint of complicated thought is quickly jettisoned and the film transforms into a chase that lasts until the multiple endings that cap off the experience. It’s a shame to see this happen, as the players are all clearly ready to dig deeper than they’re asked. But Shooter simply isn’t that kind of film. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a fast-paced action piece, this might be a good time.
The film is being released on both HD-DVD formats next week. The Blu-Ray edition includes all the extras from the standard edition released recently, including a commentary by Fuqua, a pair of featurettes now presented in 1080i HD, about 12 minutes of deleted/extended scenes also presented in 1080i HD, and the theatrical trailer, now in 1080p HD. The film itself is presented in a 1080p MPEG-2 transfer that is sharp and clear.
VIDEO QUALITY: 4 ½ /5 ½
Shooter is presented in a sharp 1080p MPEG-2 transfer. There is a wide range of solid colors and environments presented, ranging from the Canadian countryside (standing in for various American locales and one African landscape), some notable American landmarks, including Independence Hall in Philadelphia, and a sparkling glacier. Flesh tones and facial details are nicely rendered throughout, as are the details of the numerous explosions that punctuate the various action sequences. Make no mistake, this is a good looking transfer of a good looking movie.
AUDIO QUALITY: 3 ½ /5 ½
Shooter is presented in English, French and Spanish in a 640k 5.1 surround mix that provides a moderate amount of surround channel use. The inevitable gunplay and explosions provide a little work for the subwoofer, and the music fills the home theatre including a healthy amount in the surround channels, but overall the mix doesn’t really pop. The dialogue is clear and the atmosphere sounds pretty good, but the film simply doesn’t make much use out of the potential in home theatre audio.
SPECIAL FEATURES: 4/5
The Blu-Ray disc of Shooter presents the special features from the standard definition release, including the director’s commentary and two featurettes about the making of the film..
Commentary with Antoine Fuqua – Antoine Fuqua talks through the film in this scene-specific commentary. Fuqua has a lot of nice things to say about his cast and the material, but his best moments come late in the film. Fuqua describes how the original filmed ending (not included here in the deleted scenes) was too cerebral for the test audiences, who demanded a much bloodier, more explosive finale. As Fuqua puts it, the audience wanted revenge more than the filmmakers originally did, leading to significant reshoots.
Survival of the Fittest: The Making of SHOOTER (21:50) (1080i MPEG-2) – This is a fairly standard making-of featurette, including the usual intercuts between on-set footage, film clips and interviews with the cast. At the beginning and the end of this piece, original novel author Stephen Hunter is interviewed on the set. Hunter is clearly pleased to see his book being turned into a film, although he acknowledges that the film is very different from his story. A fair amount of time is spent with the film’s technical advisor, who discusses the training of Wahlberg (who apparently was a very good shot) and the logistics of actual sniper work. The most fun to be had here is with the interviews with Michael Peña, who is clearly delighted to be in the middle of an action movie. There is a little substance here, mostly in the technical areas, but like the film, this featurette primarily just skims the surface.
Independence Hall (7:20) (1080i MPEG-2) – This featurette focuses on the location chosen for the film’s first major action sequence after the story begins. Most of this is travelogue material and interviews with the Park Rangers who lead tour groups through the historical site. It really plays as a promotional piece for the location, which may have been a requirement for the film’s brief shoot there. On the other hand, it’s nice to see a glorious HD close-up of the actual Liberty Bell while a Ranger takes a moment to recount its history.
Deleted Scenes (11:51 total) (1080i MPEG-2) – A handful of deleted and extended scenes are included with the package. These are pretty much disposable items – an deleted introduction of Peña’s character at the FBI, an extended shopping sequence and various odds and ends.
Original Theatrical Trailer (2:31) (1080p MPEG-2) – The theatrical trailer is included here in full 1080p HD. As with the film, the HD transfer is satisfyingly crisp and sharp. It’s not a bad trailer, in that it effectively relates the style and tone of the film.
Subtitles are available in English, English SDH, French and Spanish for the film itself as well as for the special features. The customary Blu-Ray pop-up menu is accessible during the film.
IN THE END...
Shooter is, in the final analysis, an action-packed replay of ideas seen earlier in First Blood and The Bourne Identity, not to mention the Tom Berenger vehicle Sniper. It has its moments here and there, but it simply doesn’t hold up to much scrutiny. The film may appeal to Mark Wahlberg fans as well as to fans of Antoine Fuqua’s earlier work. For the rest of the possible audience, though, it’s an action film without much substance behind it. It might have been interesting to see the deleted original ending to the film, but this material is not available on the current release. If the viewer is simply looking for an interesting action film, they'll find one here. If the search is for the more substantial piece promised by the film's opening act, it sadly is not to be found here.
July 25, 2007.