DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Shooter

JustinCleveland

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Shooter
Directed by Antoine Fuqua

Studio: Paramount Pictures
Year: 2007
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic
Running Time: 125 minutes
Rating: R
Audio: English/French/Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English
MSRP: $29.99

Release Date: June 26, 2007
Review Date: June 8, 2007

What begins as a pleasant and promising espionage-thriller quickly devolves into a brainless shoot-first action film that is more “Rambo” than it is “The Bourne Identity.” A few genuinely exciting moments and the celebration of the sniper do not save the 2007 film “Shooter” from the annals of mediocrity.

“Shooter” tracks the story of Gunnery Sgt. Bob Lee Swagger (Mark Wahlberg). Three-years retired black-ops Marine, a sniper of the highest caliber, Swagger walked away from his duty after a mission gone-wrong; one that cost him his partner and best friend. Since, he has dedicated his life to exposing government conspiracies and cover-ups from a remote cabin in the middle of nowhere. He is contacted by a man identifying himself only as Johnson (Danny Glover, who apparently had dental surgery on the day before shooting, with a prosthetic piece inserted in his lower gums giving him a pronounced and annoying lisp), asking for Swagger’s help in stopping an assassination plot against the President. Predictably--and as described in every piece of promotional material for the film--Swagger is betrayed and framed for the crime, barely surviving with his life. He dedicates himself then to uncovering the conspirators who set him up and meting vengeance.

Everything about “Shooter” is routine and familiar, noting left to the imagination. The villains do everything but cackle maniacally, Swagger does everything but wrap his wounds in the American flag while singing the national anthem. Subtlety is not this movies’ aim. The moment Swagger encounters his partner’s widow, it is made painfully obvious that they will hook up, likely before the blood on his bandages has time to dry. And that she will be taken hostage, intended to be used as a bargaining chip to stop Swagger, instead only fueling his drive for retribution. And appear scantily clad, be nigh raped, and get her revenge.

The only portion of the film that has any narrative potential is a subplot involving a green FBI agent Nick Memphis (Michael Pena) who encounters Swagger while he is fleeing, and begins his own investigation into the true events of the case. Just as this subplot begins to gather steam, however, it is cut short as Memphis becomes merely a sidekick and expository tool for Swagger.

While the first half of the film has a lot of potential, the second-half devolves into a bloodbath that plays like a modern incarnation of “First Blood.” If mindless and implausible action is your only expectation for the film, you will be disappointed because these sequences are few and far between, though intense when they are occurring. Director Antoine Fuqua delivers a film that has a lot of pop-moralizing, similar in tone to his previous films “Tears of the Sun” and “Training Day,” action-aplenty, and one which requires no commitment from the audience whatsoever.

“Shooter” is not a bad film. There are decent, if stereotypical, performances, good photography, and exciting action sequences. The problems come when the story is examined with the slightest critical viewing, as if it were merely a placeholder for the celebration of the sniper and moralizing about the nature of warfare. I was largely disappointed and bored with Sniper, and can recommend it as a rental and no more.

Video
For a film released just months ago, the transfer on this single-disc DVD is downright disappointing. Dingy and dull, I felt as if I were wearing sunglasses while watching this movie. The 2.35:1 Anamorphic transfer has no problems with grain or film artifacts, nor compression, but it is as if somebody dialed down the contrast on my set. Dark scenes are nearly unwatchable because the darkness obscures nearly everything that is occurring. The opening frames of the film, set in an undisclosed country, feature sunny skies and lush vegetation, however they look as if they were shot on a cloudy day. Every external scene looks like it is about to rain. Were the film projected this way theatrically I would have wondered if the bulb in the projector needed to be replaced.

Edge enhancement is a minor issue, appearing primarily during titles identifying location and time (which, tangentially, are rare and another problem of the film).

Audio
The default Dolby Digital 5.1 track is perfectly serviceable. Swagger’s shots ring true and clear, and the bass response is outstanding, rumbling and shaking with every explosion. Dialogue is clean and clear (save for Glover, which is a fault of the actor/production team rather than the sound designers).

Extras:
The extra features on this single-disc set commences with a commentary by director Antoine Fuqua. Fuqua is chatty, talking about a lot of the theories behind the shots that were included, how they were achieved, and why decisions were made. He provides a good amount of information, focusing on what is on screen.

“Survival of the Fittest” is a twenty-minute featurette that details the origins of the story and the process of translating the source material to the big screen. Stars Mark Wahlberg and Michael Pena provide anecdotes of their experiences, as do director Antoine Fuqua and producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura. Everything from story to training to filming is covered at a brisk, more-or-less superficial pace, spending the majority of the time on Wahlberg’s shooter training.

“Independence Hall” is a discussion of the location scouting and construction at the national monument. There is also a brief foray into the historical significance of the monument.

There are seven deleted scenes that expand the world of the film, fleshing out the character of Nick Memphis, making him see less bumbling and more inexperienced. Plus it introduces a major character who I felt was criminally underdeveloped and unexplained. They run in total about fifteen minutes, and are worth watching because of their fixation on the story.

There are a handful of previews for upcoming and existing Paramount releases forced upon you at the beginning of the disc.

Overall:
I wanted to like “Shooter.” I have a great appreciation for Mark Wahlberg, and while he gives a strong performance, the story is supplanted by over-the-top action and a black-and-white morality. Poor video quality and good audio are joined by some good bonus features on this utterly mediocre disc.
 

Jon Martin

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While I can't say I loved the film, I have to argue that one point. The thing about SHOOTER that makes it stand apart from most of the movies I've seen this year is just how it ISN'T a "routine and familiar" thriller because of the politics involved.

I don't know if it has been changed for DVD but SHOOTER in theatres was one of the most shocking films of the year in that it created a whole new genre. It was a left wing vigilante film. Something I had never seen before.

All the bad guys are Republicans, with photos of Bush on the wall. They are all admitting the Iraq war is all about oil, etc.

Meanwhile the good guy, Wahlberg, is first seen reading the 911 Commission report, and is clearly not a Bush supporter. There is talk about no weapons of mass destruction, Abu Ghraib, etc. Not the typical Rambo grunts and groans.

It was one of the most political films I've seen the first half of this year. I really couldn't believe they went with that. Like I wrote at the time, I don't know if the NPR crowd wanted to see a vigilante film, but if they did, this was a must see.

So, while it is a silly film, politically, it is something different, and worth watching just for that.
 

JustinCleveland

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That is fair: However the politics are not made explicit. Sure the villains (and I use that term because of how laden it is) are evil corporate entities, but Wahlberg is not of the liberal persuasion. In fact I would go so far as to say he is more in line with Libertarian ideals. He says at one point "I don't care much for this President, or for his predecessor for that matter." He's anti-big government, which is a traditional conservative (note: not current Republican party policy) value.

The politics, in the end, didn't matter. The bad guys were part of a big, evil conspiracy who sat around at the end, smoking cigars and talking about how evil they were. If Wahlberg were of the "NPR set" as you say, I believe he would have accepted the ruling of the courts and not taken matters into his own hands.

You are correct, Jon, in saying that the movie has the promise of a film that critiques the administration. In fact, the seeds of an interesting political thriller are here but the film devolves into a stock story that didn't yield any of the promised fruit.
 

ErichH

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Agree guys - great cast, etc but not much story to go with it. Guess I'll stick with the first Sniper.

E
 

Jan H

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Nice review, and I agree with all of the above comments, particularly the comparison with 'First Blood.' 'Shooter' is essentially a remake of the first Rambo film. It wears its politics on its sleeve, and if you agree with the politics, you'll find the movie quite cathartic. I for one, LOVED IT!! Does it go far enough in attacking the powers-that-be? No. But it contains enough explosions and exploding heads to satisfy the action film crowd. I also think that Mark Wahlberg gave an outstanding performance considering the dialogue he had to work with.
 

Jonny P

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The movie is essentially a cross between "Sniper," "First Blood" and "The Fugitive."

To be honest, it is a "throwback" action film and that's why I think there is a tepid response to it.

It doesn't fit in today's world of CG everything.

I enjoyed it -- because it was a "throwback" movie. It felt like an action movie from the late 80s or early 90s.

I thought the movie looked good on DVD. I watched it on my 37" Vizio Widescreen LCD using my Sony DVD player (running through component inputs) and the transfer looks very nice...very film-like.

Not a great film, but entertaining for its "retro" style.
 

Yee-Ming

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I saw this on the plane, and enjoyed it. I hadn't thought about it much, but now that you've but it this way, I must concur.

I recently saw the trailer for Die Hard 4.0, and what struck me was how OTT the action was, and how obviously (therefore) it was CGI. Unlike the original movies which were done either as 'for real' stunts, or optically composited, with maybe some minimal CGI (how did they 'blow up' the 747 on take off in Die Hard 2?).

Don't get me wrong, CGI is a tool and isn't good or bad per se, but it seems that too many filmmakers are just running rampant on creating the most outlandish spectacles they can, without giving any thought as to how 'real' it seems anymore. Which then distracts as the mind simply registers the scene as being an OTT effect, rather than a "wow, that was spectacular scene"

All just IMHO.
 

BrandonJF

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Going kinda off topic, but I wouldn't use the Die Hard example to decry the use of CG until you've seen it. There is some CG used, but Live Free or Die Hard is very much a "throwback" action film, in the sense that many of the stunts/set pieces are real. The action is over the top, as you stated, but that doesn't automatically equal CG. Outside of the fighter jet sequence (which also was the weakest sequence in the film IMO), I can't think of what else in the trailer was CG... There was some minimal CG in the car-into-helicopter sequence, but only to enhance it. That helicoptor was real and did get a car flung into it.
 

AlexF

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The car flipping and crashing against two other cars...
 

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