Thirty-six months ago Bob Lee Swagger (Mark Wahlberg) was a U.S. Army sniper stationed in Ethiopia, carrying out top secret work there. The idea was to bring down a rival group of Africans who were opposed to whatever American companies were doing there - Swagger was not privy to that information - and he was so skilled that he and his best buddy managed to pretty much destroy a convoy on their own. Yet just as the convoy began to fight back with a rocket launcher, a U.S gunship appeared and finished them off... followed by an attempt on Swagger's life.
The heyday of the conspiracy movie was not, surprisingly from about 1990 onwards, when public paranoia began to mount to a stage where you'd almost believe everyone had a secret motive for doing anything, but the seventies, when the fallout from the string of assassinations and attempted assassinations finally dawned on people that all those in power were not all they seemed. We can probably thank Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal for that, but ever since the heady days of shadowy cabals appearing in many a thriller, there have been filmmakers having a go at recreating some of those excellent suspense pieces.
Of course, not all of them were excellent, but such was their cultural impact that by the time Shooter was released we were all used to such efforts, which is probably why, with little to bring to the table, this was somewhat forgotten, or even dismissed, by audiences who felt they had seen it all before in action thrillers like this. It was an updated version of a Stephen Hunter novel from the 1970s which might explain its concerns, as here we were asked to swallow that the United States government were pulling the strings behind the set up of Swagger, who initially thinks he is being invited to conduct a security investigation to ensure the President is safe and well during a public speech.
Somehow, after all he has been through including an attempt on his life that saw him retreat to a cabin in the woods with only his pet dog for company, Swagger doesn't cotton on to the fact that he is being framed for murder, something you will probably see coming a mile off even if you haven't been aware of the plot details beforehand. Soon he is on the run, nursing a bullet wound, but crucially before he goes into hiding he encounters seemingly one of the sole FBI agents who is not in on the scheming, Nick Memphis (Michael Peña) who he manages to convince in about five seconds that he is not the one who pulled the trigger on the victim. This makes him an ally, and he finds another one in the widow of his deceased buddy.
She is Sarah (Kate Mara), who being well aware of the circumstances of her husband's death is more open to Swagger's tales of how those in power are crooked, and soon he has a small gang of sympathisers willing to assist in taking down the right-wingers who have corrupted the Land of the Free. Or at least, we think they're right-wingers, but with Swagger's tendency to look for the most violent solution to his problems he perhaps is not so much different from those he is dead against. Danny Glover with clicking teeth is the main army bad guy, sort of the anti-Morgan Freeman who whispers his way through sinister dialogue, while he is backed up by Ned Beatty's hearty but heartless senator, underlining how far-reaching the machinations actually go. Yet with Wahlberg in by now traditional superhuman mode, there's little excitement as only the foolish villains would bet against him, and it's not half as intelligent as it seems to think it is. Music by Mark Mancina.