Tuesday, March 27, 2007

"Ready to snap at all the endless bullshit"

Starring Mark Wahlberg, Danny Glover and Levon Helm

You know what the dismissed left really needs to do? Strike back. With bullets. And napalm. And high-powered explosives. That would certainly make the U.S. government think twice before slyly suspending even more civil liberties.

This is the message of Shooter, either as wish-fulfilment or warning, and it’s frankly scary. For years, Hollywood had to look back and mine the rotten, maggoty idiocy of Vietnam for source material. Everything from Apocalypse Now to, on the sillier side, Rambo. Yet thanks to the current Republican warlocks, today’s headlines are enough to justify the boiling anger of Bob Lee Swagger (Mark Wahlberg). But what really got his goat was how, as a patriotic military sniper in Ethiopia, he and his spotter were left out to dry after protecting a covert operation to stop rebellion against America goals - oil.

His partner dead, we fast-forward to the rural and mountainous supposedly not B.C. The peaks of Kansas, perhaps – doesn’t matter – where Swagger now lives with his dog, a well-worn copy of the 9-11 Commission Report and plenty-a Ol’ Glories. Into this nest of abused patriotism drive up Col. Isaac Johnson and the guy who played Casey Jones in the original Ninja Turtles, now reekingly scummy, both. Despite protests from the sniper that he doesn’t like this president or the last one – set after 2008? – Johnson plays up Swagger’s sense of duty and democratic belonging to get experienced assistance and stop an impending assassination. Wellllll, it’s pretty clear from the posters who’s going to get set up for the fall, and soon enough, after an Ethiopan minister is blown away right beside the Prez from a mile away, Swagger is on the run, framed for a crime only he could’ve committed. His framers, meanwhile, sit cackling in an expensive-looking room, surrounded by icons of Reagan and Bush Sr.

Lucky for Swagger, shot and bleeding and on the run, the rookie FBI agent he overcomes (Michael Peña as Nick Memphis – love these names) is hung out wet by the agency for failing to stop the invented assassin. Slowly with surety, their two fates pretzel in some of the most fantastic leaps of logic and plot nonsense ever slapped onto this Molden Age of cinema. Just for starters, each of our two victims is aided secretly by ladies who conveniently have exactly the skills and information and pass codes they need. Oh, and pointy breasts, of course.

Lucky for us, Wahlberg is a captivating actor. The topographical wrinkles on his furrowed brow keep us going as Swagger and Memphis kill literally dozens of federal agents, two modern Rambos who no way in hell should be allowed to live to tell their tale to clear their names. And yet.

Like the crew on Boston Legal weekly, screenwriter Jonathon Lemkin is couching very serious condemnation of Republican behavior vs. public apathy in the last six or so years - Abu Ghraib, WMDs and even, thanks to the Band’s rickety Levon Helm, the Kennedy plot all rise to the surface by name. Lemkin is more than hinting that even the most loyal and partisan and guns and apple pie among Americans is ready to snap at all the endless bullshit. And that if they do, led by misused soldiers instead of blue-state liberals, it’s going to be a fucking bloodbath.

Valid enough. But a better film, please?

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