Shooter review by Matt Fuerst


There are a ton of cool bonuses of loving movies, writing reviews and running the Jackass Critics website. Occasionally I score a free DVD which is pretty cool, and it always gives you something to talk about with friends and family. My good buddy The Johnage recently dropped a message along the lines of "You have to check out Shooter". A message vague like that makes me not sure what he means... is it so bad that he wanted me to check it out? Or so good? With friends like I have, you never can tell what angle they are coming from. (And I'm sort of known for having an appetite for bad movies, so, I guess I've brought a lot of that on myself.)

Growing up I had a rule that I never actually formed wholly, but looking back I lived by fairly closely. I don't much believe in talking about two things amongst strangers, friends, family, co-workers, mostly everyone: religion and politics. It's not that I have no interest in either topic, quite the opposite, I have fairly well thought out ideas on both topics, but in reality I just view my feelings on them as that: my feelings. I have no interest in changing your opinions on politics or religion. You can agree with me, think I am a jackass, either way, I don't care much in trying to convince you I am right. As time wore on and I grew up, graduated college and got my first real-life grownup job, this rule was fairly well formed and not bringing these topics up much became my M.O.

One of the few times in the past I can remember talking politics was with The Johnage. Of course, we were drunk, and in an all night diner in our hometown of Waterford, Michigan. I'll spare you the details of our drunken exchange, but I'll summarize the polar opposites of me and The Johnage. Fuersty, your loyal movie critic here, is a very strict believer in the power of markets, and the ability of properly motivated individuals to empower themselves and make their lives better. Some may consider that a "Republican" mentality, but calling me a "Republican" would send shivers down my spine. The Johnage is a bigger fan of the idea of giving people a helping hand at times, of spreading out the wealth a little more in hopes that everyone can prosper. Hopefully I didn't butcher his point of view too much and make him sound like the socialist piece of trash I am sure he is in his dark soul. (OK, just kidding about the socialist, dark soul stuff.)

I bring up this story because Shooter (what, did you think I forgot I was writing a movie review?) has a surprising amount of political content, and I'm still not exactly sure what I think about it, and even more perplexing, I wonder what The Johnage expected me to think about it. Shooter is a pretty straightforward movie and honestly shares many a plot points with brainless 80's fare like Commando. Crackerjack sniper Bob Lee Swagger (Mark Whalberg) is disenchanted with the government (join the club) after being left behind on a sniping mission. Not only was he left behind, but his best friend and spotter was mowed down on the mission as well. And if there's any action movie cliche that I love, it's the cliche of the pissed off veteran with nothing to lose. One day a team of vague government officials arrive at Swagger's doorstep with an offer he can't refuse, to attempt to guess where the President is going to be assassinated, since they have hard intelligence it's going to happen in the next 2 weeks.

Swagger takes the bait, and in true Lee Harvey Oswald fashion, walks blindly into a patsy setup. The assassination attempt is not successful on the President, but instead the the visiting president of Ethiopia is killed. After the framed presidential shooting, Swagger is supposed to be killed attempting to flee, but not everything goes according to plan. Swagger is injured and pissed, but again, the power of an action movie cliche allows him to stay alive long enough to visit the widow of his slain partner to get patched up and ready to kick some government ass! Swagger manages to convince an FBI Agent that maybe there is more to the story than the official version being pushed, and the two of them set off to clear Swaggers name and uncover the the true plot behind the shooting.

I've mentioned action movie cliches now a few times, and Shooter does rely on them, but there is actually a lot more going on in Shooter than a typical action movie. Shooter has a very strong anti-government theme, of trusting no one, and dare I say even a vibe of anarchy. (Small Spoiler Alert) We learn that the Ethiopian President was in fact the intended target, and a United States Senator is the one pulling the strings behind the scenes. Swagger himself finds this and sets out to tear the whole system down single handedly. He begins by using the FBI Agent Nick Memphis (Michael Pena) as bait, bringing the Senators hitmen out of hiding. Swagger kills all 3 of them, which is pretty easy to swallow. All 3 were about to kill an FBI Agent, they are undoubtedly bad guys in every sense. From this thread, Swagger is able to find a way into Vague Black Ops Government Advisor Michael Sandor (Rade Serbedzija) and Swagger and Memphis stage a raid on his remote cabin. At this point I am completely onboard, but the Sandor cabin raid begins to make me pause. Swagger finds out the truth behind the assassination from Sandor, but the whole raid is a setup and the cabin is stormed by 24 Marines, whom Swagger proceeds to kill. That's right, Swagger kills his fellow soldiers. Hm, this makes me pause. What exactly is the message here? I guess this is a kill or be killed type situation, but I'm not really sure Swagger our hero is really just in these actions. When Arnie blows away a seemingly endless stream of bad guys on some remote island in Commando, there's no question of the just nature of the killing. These are armed, trained mercenaries who are up to no good. Can the same be said of Swaggers victims? I don't really think so.

Post Cabin, Swagger has all the information he needs to set up the final confrontation between himself and the Senator and the Senators associated black ops lackeys. I won't ruin the twists and turns, but I will say that Swagger again proceeds to kill at least 3 Marine or Army snipers in the process. These are "our" Military guys who were presented with the following situation: There's a bad guy out there with a gun, aimed a US Senator, protect him at all costs. And Swagger wipes 'em all out. Fun for an action movie no doubt, who doesn't love a good sniper battle, but again, I'm just not sure what I think about that. The movie wraps up to it's logical conclusion (good guys win, yippie) and that's that, but I am just not sure about the "kill and win at all costs" message. I have to give Shooter credit, it's certainly different than typical Hollywood fare.

I couldn't agree more with Swagger and his views on the government. In spite of all the happy ideals we are taught in the public schooling system of our government, the sad fact is that economics tells us that everyone acts in their own best self interest. People will vote for politicians who will best serve them and businesses will influence politicians in attempts to serve their needs. Politicians are not above this, in spite of the rhetoric, they are players just like everyone else and will make decisions based solely on their self interest. (Public Choice Theory) Undoubtedly when placed in a situation of kill or be killed, a human being had best act, and act quickly, to preserve their own life. There can be no denying the just nature of that reaction, survival is primal. But Swagger certainly takes things a step beyond just surviving, and kills a lot of innocent people along the way. This is what really gives me pause.

I guess I haven't formed my opinions on Shooter nearly well enough to give it a proper and just review. For the most part this review has been me essentially "talking out loud" on my thoughts. Well, what can I say? This is Jackass Critics and you get what you pay for. I ain't Ebert, and your opinions are just as valid as mine. So, what'd you think? Am I totally off base here with my concerns?

7 out of 10 Jackasses
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