Paramount Home Video
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Michael Peña, Danny Glover
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurettes, Deleted Scenes, Theatrical Trailer
From Antoine Fuqua ("Training Day", "Tears Of The Sun", "King Arthur") we have a film based on the Stephen Hunter novel "Point Of Impact". There are three other novels that feature the same character, Bob Lee Swagger, one of which will be released on September 11, 2007. So, in the tradition of the Bourne films, I was quite interested in this project, especially since I thought the trailer was very well done and am a huge fan of "Training Day".
Although I haven't read any of the novels, I definitely find the character fascinating, especially when this story is taken from a Vietnam perspective and updated into the paranoid and almost surreal post 9/11 world that we all live in. This is actually the second time I have viewed this film – I also caught the original DVD release.
It is amazing after you research a project and dig deeper into the making of a film how it can change your perspective. Also, when I watched the Standard version, I couldn't help but think how much better this project would look in high definition, but maybe I've just become spoiled by an over saturation of high def content. In any case, let's dig a little deeper…
"Shooter" opens beautifully in Ethiopia, of all places. Our main character, Bob Lee Swagger (Mark Wahlberg) is a Marine sniper, one of the best, on a secret mission to protect American forces (who are not officially supposed to be there) as they attempt to sneak back to an undisclosed destination. He is not alone, his scout Donny Fenn (Lane Garrison), instructs him as to where to aim and whatnot. The two are obviously very close, as they should be since they have probably waited in extreme conditions for many hours and probably on many other secret missions. Dressed in full camouflage gear they blend perfectly with the environment and even have attached shrubbery to their helmets. It is quickly becoming evident that the two are very good at what they do and very professional through, yet still some personal conversation slides through along with a photo of a woman who will obviously be introduced later – Donny's wife.
So things go terribly wrong on this particular mission, and this sets up the first of many very impressive action sequences. Swagger's scout ends up getting snuffed by a machine gun-toting helicopter of all things. From the opening moments I realized I was to suspend my disbelief for this film, because originally I thought it was something else entirely.
What we have here is an action film like "First Blood", and when you realize this and give up trying to analyze its completely unbelievable aspects you will have a lot more fun. The loss of his partner must have been more than Swagger could bear, especially when it is so obvious that his very government left him and his partner to die rather than reveal the truth. His realization that they were nothing more than expendable must have pushed him over the edge because the next time we visit him, he is in hard core survivalist mode, living alone with his dog, a bunch of beer cans, guns and conspiracy books in a remote log hut in the mountains.
It's a few years later. He has let himself go quite a bit, and seems obsessed with current events. He has gone all Ted Nugent, apparently. But the government that once left him out in the cold knows he is the best of the best. After all they trained him, and they are about to pay him a visit.
Colonel Isaac Johnson (Danny Glover) in the company of Jack Payne (Elias Koteas) and Louis Dobbler (Jonathon Walker) makes the trek into the hills to offer Swagger a new mission, one that he can't refuse. Glover explains that they have received credible information that there will be an attempt on the president's life in the form of a bullet from the gun of a sniper from a range beyond a mile, which supposedly only a handful of men are capable of. He hesitantly accepts to help theoretically plan the assassination to help the authorities track down the perpetrator, which could possibly take place in any of three different cities. He eventually finds that it will most likely take place in Philadelphia. From there everything starts to go wrong in a very dramatic and action packed sequence. Bob Lee Swagger is the one our government is trying to pin the botched assassination on. Instead of the president, the Arch Bishop of Ethiopia is assassinated, and our patsy is now on the run.
From here the movie takes quite a few implausible and unlikely turns that get more and more absurd as the film progresses. We are also introduced to a naïve cop who failed at originally catching Swagger, Nick Memphis (Michael Peña), who becomes obsessed with the strange and misleading 'facts' leading up to the case and decides to research it himself, what he finds ultimately puts himself in the same danger as Bob Swagger.
Now, as you can see the film takes a lot of twists and turns, and I really enjoyed it through about the first half, but around then it becomes so impossible to comprehend I ultimately am unsatisfied at the final product. It's "Rambo" meets "Bourne Identity." And I was truly blown away with some of the brilliant action scenes and chases, but in the end my brain took over a little too much and I started getting annoyed at the stereotypical characters and the catch phrase dialogue. So it didn't work for me entirely, but it does show promise as far as a franchise, if they could simply fix a few fatal flaws in logic the next time around.
I think the main character as played by Mark Wahlberg is truly interesting and quite fun to watch, so we'll just wait and see if they attempt any of the other novels. But I am left pretty let down from my original enthusiasm, especially when so much talent was involved.
The video presentation on the other hand, quite impressed me. From its opening shots of Ethiopia to its stunning depiction of the mountain trees to its chase scenes and explosions, this is one of the better looking high def titles I have seen. The picture is always crystal clear and frequently breathtaking and the colors come across extremely vibrant. This is one of those transfers where you can count the pores in the actors' faces and read all of the labels in Swaggers refrigerator, and I was extremely satisfied from beginning to end. This film looks great, and is also very well filmed, the cinematography is astounding. You have to see this transfer to believe it, I was very happy.
As for the sound, this is another title that obviously could have benefited greatly from a PCM track, but for some reason, it isn't an option. What we get is a Dolby Digital 5.1 track instead. Not to say it wasn't very effective, because it is. This film has a lot of gunfire and explosions and helicopters, and all of this is handled wonderfully and is fully immersive throughout. The dialogue seemed very well balanced also, so no real complaints in this department.
Every special feature on this disc is in high definition. We have a commentary track by Director Antoine Fuqua. 'Survival of the Fittest' is a making-of featurette involving the author of the book the movie was based on, cast and crew, and proves every detail in the movie to be extremely accurate; even pointing out how the assassination scene could not have happened the way it does in the movie. This featurette also shows you Mark Wahlberg training to walk, talk and act like a Marine Sniper by his trainer and Fuqua's Military Technical Advisor, Patrick Garrity; and the cast filming on a real glacier. 'Independence Hall' is another featurette about Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, complete with a virtual tour of Independence Hall from some of the actual tour guides who work there. There are also several deleted scenes, in high definition. It is not apparent exactly why the scenes were cut, as there is no commentary to go along with them.
And last, but not least, the Theatrical Trailer in high definition. Once again, I am very happy that we have a release from Paramount with all high definition special features, and I only hope that other companies follow suit.
So, while I definitely have some problems, in the end, with this motion picture, I probably would suggest it to fans of the book. I find the character Bob Lee Swagger interesting enough to follow into any sequels, but in the end I am disappointed with this, probably more so because I had higher expectations for it. The Blu-ray disc, on the other hand, is top notch except in the sound department. This is the type of film where high definition is the only way to go.