Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Shooter Hits Close to the Mark...

So, the wife and I saw Shooter last night. Given the press on it, what I'd seen in the trailer etc... I was prepared to be irritated, or even pissed off.

I was pleasantly surprised. No, it wasn't a GREAT movie, but it was a GOOD one; and given the general run of movies over the last couple years, I'll take good.

let's break it down...

The Good:

Well first, the "not bad", or in particular the stuff that isn't as bad as I thought.

First, this movie wasn't represented by the trailer. The things in the trailer which I thought were going to be irritating (like the prominent hot young love interest), weren't all that big a deal. I thought it was going to bug me seeing Bob Lee Swagger as a 30 something Gulf War vet, instead of a late 40s Viet Nam vet, but honestly, it wasn't a problem.

I have to say, I really like Mark Wahlberg as an actor; and "Shooter" just keeps adding to that opinion. His performance here was really quite good. He got the mindset down a lot better than most have (it's not "right", but it's close), the jargon, almost has the walk (he's not still enough, and he doesn't roll his shoulders the right way. The emotional control was there, as was the anger (Bob Lee Swagger is a VERY angry man). He had respect for the character, which is important.

The shooting, overall, was excellent. They really got the details down pretty well (Stephen Hunter has said in interviews that the details were his most important concern). The tactical framing was good, and generally realistic; except in one particular scene, which was setup that way deliberately to make the action more dramatic.

There were a couple of niggles; but honestly, that's all they were. I was actually irritated that they didn't include MORE detail, not that they got details wrong, which is unusual for me with a heavy gun movie.

The action also, was excellent. It was well shot, generally well edited, and the pacing was excellent. The movie was pretty much "non-stop", but it never really lost me. I was thoroughly involved in the movie from beginning to end, and very few movies today can say that.

The supporting cast also, generally did a very good job. Kata Mara and Rhona Mitra are both great looking women, but they weren't huge parts of the story, and the movie didn't try and force them into it more.

Quite frankly, this is a story about men, for men; and while women are part of it, they are secondary to it.

The Bad:

Nick Memphis. In the book, Memphis is a far deeper, more complex, and more interesting character. He is an experienced sniper who knows shooting; but who has lost his nerve. Also much of the book is told from Memphis's point of view, and with his emotional perspective.

Although the movie does include some of Memphis's perspective, and some of his story; the treatment of him overall is I think poor. He is made out as a rookie, and a much less impressive person as a whole. He's really a bit of a wimp.

This isn't to take away from the performance of Michael Pena (of "The Shield"), who I though did the material excellent service. I just didn't like the direction they took.

The biggest problem I have with the movie, is the "motivation".

The book had a whiff of conspiracy theory; after all the whole setup was just that, a conspiracy. The film maker however, decided to include a somewhat heavy handed anti U.S. government slash conspiracy theory message. He changed the whole thing to a blood for oil screed, which irritated me.

Honestly though, other than a few jarring moments ("Yeah, they told me that there were WMDs in Iraq, and Kennedy was shot by Oswald too!" etc...) the politics of it didnt distract from the film (unlike a movie like V for vendetta), and if they'd just toned it down a little bit, it would have been perfect. They just went over the edge between atmospheric paranoia, and political slapping across the face.

The Ugly:

Mark Wahlberg is from Boston, and he sound like it. No matter what he tries to do, he can't suppress that Boston accent. Listening him try to do an Arkansas twang is almost painful. Thankfully most of the time he just tries to go for the Mr. Clean Marine voice, and so it works out OK.

The scenes between Wahlberg and Mara don't work at all. They have no chemistry, and the moments that are supposed to be sexually tense just seem awkward.

Oh, and I kinda have a problem seeing Danny Glover without getting angry, but he plays a total scumbag who deserves to be raped to death with barbed wire, so that's OK.

The Verdict:

If you like to read this site, you're going to like this movie; it's pretty much that simple. I'm going to buy the DVD (I hope it's a special edition with about 20 more minutes of story and more shooting detail).

You don't need to have read the book to appreciate the movie; which is generally a good thing. As to how faithful the movie is to the book "Point of Impact"...

Well, if you don't mind the "update", moving Bob the Nailer 20 years into the future; and if you understand that you cant take a 400 page book and move it directly into a 2 hour movie; you'll be happy.

If you're one of those people who won't watch "Hunt for Red October" because it oversimplified the story and got the sub details wrong... well... have you EVER liked an adapted screenplay?

Go see it, you're gonna like it.