Not the shooter, just shooter. Really, Shooting would be a more accurate title, because that’s what happens most here. Everyone has a gun! I must be the only person in the U.S. who doesn’t have a gun these days. I know I’m the only one without a cell phone.
I was a little leery of this one. For one thing, the main character is named Bob Lee Swagger. Gah. I refuse to call him that. And hearing the critics say that Mark Wahlberg is the best he’s ever been just isn’t on a par with hearing that, say, Matt Damon is the best he’s ever been. But now I see what the critics meant — he spends much of his time brooding, and he is very good at brooding. Thankfully he doesn’t just brood, or I would have gotten very tired of that, but when he did talk, I often wished I could ask him to repeat what he’d just said. He mumbles.
Anyway, the gist of the plot is pretty simple. Mark is a Marine sniper, on a mission with his partner in Ethopia. He also shoots with one eye closed, even though I’m told the really good shooters never do that. Anyway, things go horribly awry, after Mark has a chance to demonstrate his shooting prowess, of course, and instead of pulling them out, the government leaves them, since they’re not supposed to be in Ethiopia. Mark’s partner, who is just a nice guy looking forward to going home to his wife, predictably gets killed. He also gets killed pretty gruesomely, and let me just add here that I was a little unnerved by how many people in the theatre were ready to laugh at people getting shot in the head or their arms blown off. It was creepy.
Thirty-six months later (no, I don’t know why they don’t say ‘three years later’, I’m just quoting the caption) Mark is living an isolated life in the mountains, Unabomber style. I didn’t see any manifestos in progress, but I’m sure there was one somewhere. Then Danny Glover (he has great presence, as always, even though he never goes above a hoarse whisper), Elias Koteas (from Zodiac, and my fellow House fans will remember him as Jack Moriarty), and some nameless g-men show up to recruit him for a top secret mission. The president is in danger, and as a good soldier, Mark needs to help them out by using his extreme long-range sniper skills to tell them how the attempt could be made.

Mark, Danny and the gang take time out for a quick game of Diplomacy.

Since this question is answered within the first fifteen minutes, you know things have to go horribly wrong somewhere else. Before you know it, Mark is shot and on the run in Philadelphia, accused of being the assassin. Only it isn’t the president who’s dead, but rather the unfortunate foreign dignitary who was standing next to him on the podium. So you know Mark’s innocent, because our hero would never miss his intended target. The plot thickens!
Well, really it just becomes your standard action-movie plot, though not as mindless as some. Mark finds a pretty girl to dress his wounds (Kate Mara) and she is (willingly) dragged into his schemes to clear his name. Honestly, I’m sure she’s a good actress, but all she really got to do here was look worried and be scantily-clad. Part of her helping Mark involved her dressing like a hooker, except I’m pretty sure even hookers don’t dress quite like that anymore. It attracts too many police officers.
Anyway, my favorite character was FBI agent Nick Memphis (Michael Peña). Just three weeks out of the academy, he’s helping guard the president while stationed on a street corner that looked like it had first been allowed to run down for decades and was then the site of a major gun battle. So it was probably in Camden, New Jersey, which is just across the river from Philly. I don’t know if they really would have had security that far out, but I’ve been to Camden and Philadelphia, and I’m not sure anyplace in Philly looks that bad.
But the point is, Nick is there, on the edge of the action, when a bleeding Mark Wahlberg knocks him down and takes his gun and his department-issue car, earning poor Nick the label of “Disgraced FBI Agent”. The captions on the news even call him that, which might be edging on libel. Nick isn’t as slow as his superiors seem to think, though, and he’s immediately suspicious of the assumption that Mark is the shooter. In spite of being hoplessly idealistic about the law as the last bastion of all justice, Nick has a healthy dose of skepticism when it comes to the people actually enforcing the law, and sets himself the task of uncovering the conspiracy.
In short, it’s a good action film, though not much else. There are all the usual improbabilities you generally find in these “one lone person against a government” sort of movies — no worse than usual, no better. There’s no character background or development, unless you count Nick seeming a little more confident near the end. And they don’t really take advantage of having good actors as villains in order to give them a little depth. There’s never any question of having to make difficult moral choices in trying to serve the greater good, or even of them trying to justify their evil. They’re just baaaad.
Poor Danny Glover is pretty much wasted. Ned Beatty at least looks like he’s having fun as the corrupt senior senator from Montana, but he doesn’t get any acting challenges either. Two and three-quarter idols for this one. It’s an excellent weekend action flick, but there’s nothing more to it than that, and there could have been. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go check my backyard for camouflaged snipers, because this movie has taught me that they’re everywhere.