RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
It's Friday, yes, and time for an action movie.
When the movie is called "Shooter," you have a pretty good idea of what you're going to get. Okay, but Los Angeles Times and MORNING EDITION film critic Kenneth Turan says "Shooter" also features a fine performance by Mark Wahlberg.
KENNETH TURAN: "Shooter" is Hollywood's latest action thriller, one of those elevated B-pictures that runs type across the bottom of the screen to tell you what city you're in. The film has its regrettable moments, including a torture scene, but it also has the kind of character the movies love - the heroic loner, forced to do battle for justice against phenomenal odds.
Bob Lee Swagger - yes, that is really his name - is just such a man. He's a former Marine, that kind of dead shot who can take the rotation of the Earth into consideration and hit a target a mile away. He never even thinks of missing. And playing him may do for Mark Wahlberg what playing Jason Bourne did for Matt Damon.
(Soundbite of movie, "Shooter")
Unidentified Woman: Why did you go? When they came to see you.
Mr. MARK WAHLBERG (Actor): (As Bob Lee Swagger) They know which buttons to press. I'm still enough of a sucker, press that patriot button, I'll sit up in my chair and say which way you want me to go, boss. I ain't real proud of it, but I ain't ashamed either.
TURAN: The key to Wahlberg's performance is that he never swaggers. Instead, he projects a classic, wary stoicism. Like few other actors - Steve McQueen is the classic example - Wahlberg gives off a casual sense of danger. He doesn't come off as an actor playing someone outside the law, but as the real thing. Swagger is traced to his mountain lair by a shadowy retired colonel who works for one of those nameless super-secret quasi-governmental agencies. Calling on Swagger's unquenchable patriotism, he asks the shooter for some help.
(Soundbite of movie, "Shooter")
Mr. DANNY GLOVER (Actor): (As Colonel Isaac Johnson) Standard Secret Service, protect (unintelligible) 880 yards (unintelligible) claims that the shot will be taken from beyond a mile. We need you to scout. Tell us how you would do it, so we could stop it.
TURAN: What the colonel really wants, however, is to use Swagger as the convenient fall guy for an upcoming assassination. Convenient my foot. Swagger, not surprisingly, turns out to be not exactly patsy material. With his bottomless skill set, he knows how to keep himself alive and escape from any and all traps. When he vows I'll burn their playhouse down, no one asks if he's just being metaphorical.
It's not the crisp action sequences that make "Shooter" involving; it's Wahlberg's performance. It's the film's most old-fashioned element and its best.
MONTAGNE: Kenneth Turan reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and the Los Angeles Times.
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