This weekend I watched “Shooter” with Mark Wahlberg on pay-per-view. On the NR cruise, I watched a few minutes of it and it seemed like a perfectly serviceable action movie. And, truth be told, when it is an action movie it’s really not terrible. I was particularly psyched when I saw in the opening credits that Stephen Hunter wrote the novel upon which the book was based. I’ve never read his novels, but he’s probably my favorite mainstream movie reviewer and readers keep telling me his novels are really good.
The problem, alas, is that Director Antoine Fuqua made it into an extended Democratic Underground fantasy flick (at least I can only assume this isn’t a loyal adaptation of the book). Not only are the bad guys CIA-Haliburton-Republicans willing to do the most evil and horrific things purely because of their rank greed, but they’re stupid enough to admit it in long agitprop style speeches. It’s as if Don Rumsfeld shouted at his staff “We’re doing this because we’re evil men who hate democracy and want to get rich!”
I should have known that Danny Glover as the ex-military CIA contractor guy was all you needed to know about the movie. I used to have a rule that if Ed Asner, Martin Sheen and a few other likely suspects were in a movie even remotely about politics, you could be sure it’d be annoying. I guess I gotta dust-off that list and put Glover on.
There were so many little annoyances. In every office Glover’s in, there’s a picture of George H.W. Bush or Ronald Reagan on the wall. When the Latino FBI agent sees the light that the entire government is run by evil, murderous, money-grubbing men, he goes rogue and puts on his Che t-shirt. And so on.
The cartoonishness of the whole thing does conjure Soviet theater, but I think it’s more pornographic. In porn movies women are always driven by motives lonely men daydream about. That super hot stewardess really does love Dungeons and Dragons and wants to role play in the bathroom! It’s totally believable that underwear-model twins are ready to rock-out in the Xerox room with the nerdy guy from accounting. Ned Beatty could absolutely be a Montana Senator running his own private army of CIA goons and oil-pipeline engineers all around the world! And when asked about it, he’ll deliver a stemwinder of a lecture that could have been written by Trotsky! It could happen! Really!
From a reader:
I was also pretty disappointed with “Shooter,” if only because Fuqua’s previous stuff had been so good, with messages not normally found in Hollywood – generally good triumphing over evil. Training Day was a fantastic film about a rookie cop taking down his incredibly corrupt partner. Tears of the Sun is one of my favorite movies, where America is the good guy and does the right thing regardless of the immediate strategic interest. It seemed to me to be dangerously close to neoconservative for what’s allowed in Hollywood. His most recent movie before Shooter is King Arthur, where Arthur dreams of a democratic Rome where all men are equal, and becomes despondent when he finds out that, since he’s been gone, Rome has become a corrupt and decadent pit. So he stays in Britain and fights against the tyranny of the invading Danes. Given these previous movies, Shooter seems to be a blight on his filmmaking record. Perhaps you could argue good still triumphed over evil, but the characters were all such caricatures it wasn’t even interesting. Hopefully his next movie is a return to form.
Me: Yeah, I liked Tears of the Sun a lot (and Hunter’s review of it). I thought Training Day was good but overrated. And I really liked his King Arthur which seemed to have gone straight to FX reruns from what I can tell.