A friend invited me to see Shooter yesterday. It earned some very mixed feelings from me.
On the good side, the shooting was interesting. There was a lot of talk about shooting from a mile away, and the difficulties with accuracy at that range. I found it fascinating.
Also good were the multiple preparation scenes. By that I mean, when the main character (Bob Lee Swagger – played by Mark Wahlberg) needed to do something extraordinary, the movie went out of its way to show you how he did it. We had multiple shopping scenes, where he'd buy everyday products and combine them to make a medical kit, a pipe bomb, or other goodies. And we had multiple scenes of him scoping out an area – researching to see what he was getting into. This helped me immensely, so that when the movie ended, I found myself thinking, "maybe he really could beat 25 soldiers, he sure planned it out carefully enough."
It was a different vibe from movies like the James Bond films. In those movies, Bond can spontaneously win any attack, getting out of every bad situation through sheer luck. But in Shooter, Bob Lee Swagger survives by having friends who snipe bad guys, by planting land mines, and by holding off combat until he's assessed the situation. Nice.
But now, let's look at the bad side of the movie.
The main problem with the movie is the dialogue. The horrendous, awful, cliché dialogue. First, there was the awkward, contrived romantic scene. The scene itself isn't so horrible, but it's nestled in the middle of what's basically a home invasion. You see, Swagger gets shot fleeing from an assassination. So he tracks down his old war buddy's girlfriend, who he thinks is a nurse. But she's not. So this bloody guy – who is all over the TV for trying to kill someone – is at her door, asking her to fix his wounds. And she's alone in the house, because the old war buddy died. The scene is tense. But she lets him in and stitches up the bullet hole. At this point, Swagger asks, "Do you have a boyfriend?" And the entire audience groaned. He's basically asking a hostage on a date. It's bizarre. Yet we are subjected to 15 minutes of hamfisted romance at this point. Totally implausible.
(I know, I know. She isn't a hostage, she freely and willingly let this man into her house. But she's also scared – she called the police and then hung up. She's seen the news. She knows he is a dangerous soldier, even if he didn't kill the President. It was not a cuddly moment.)
Later, Swagger decides to go fight the bad guys, and the woman says, "They'll never stop, you know. They'll never stop hunting you." Ooooohhh. Yeah, cause they're bad guys. We get it. They're tough. And good ol' boy Swagger is gonna have to take 'em down like the badass he is. Ugh. Please, screenplay writers, hit us over the head with the obvious. We need you to connect the dots for us. And be sure to have these characters say it the exact same way a hundred others have. These sentences could have been uttered by any generic person before any generic confrontation. Blah.
The other problem? You know exactly how this is going to play out. This movie is almost paint-by-numbers. I don't have cable TV, and I've not seen a single commercial for the movie. I had no idea what to expect. But 5 minutes into the film, I knew Swagger was going to be set up, and I knew he'd get shot or hurt somehow, because the movie so conspicuously mentions the nurse girlfriend. It was like a story for kids – everything very overstated so even an underdeveloped mind could follow it.
Overall, I think I liked it for the action and the thought that went into the fighting. But I almost wished they had hired me to do the script – I'm an amateur, and I could have done better dialogue.