With Wahlberg, what you see is what you get. And what you get is usually pretty good. He excels at playing the common man: blue collar, gritty, the kind of guy you knew growing up in the neighborhood.
A guy who is handsome enough to get the girl, but also tough enough to kick some ass when needed. In Shooter , Walberg gets the girl and kicks a whole lot of ass along the way.
Although he won't get an Academy nod for his performance, it's one of his best so far (other highlights include The Departed (2006), Invincible (2006), Four Brothers (2005) and his gutsy performance as porn star Dirk Diggler in 1997's Boogie Nights .
In Shooter , Wahlberg plays Bob Lee Swagger, a former Marine scout sniper and disgruntled veteran living a secluded life in a remote mountain hideaway. His serenity is disrupted when he's paid a visit by retired Colonel Isaac Johnson (Danny Glover).
It seems the President of the United States' life is in danger of an assassin's bullet. Colonel Johnson explains to Swagger that his country needs him once again to serve, this time, to foil an assassination plot.
Swagger is one of the best sniper/marksmen alive. If anyone can understand the mind of a trained killer, Swagger can.
Of course, Swagger wants no part of it. So Johnson pushes all the right patriotism buttons; and within no time, Walberg is beating down the bad guys and leaving a rising toll of dead bodies.
Swagger certainly does kill a whole lot of evil people. At times I was a little put off by how easily an honorable man like Swagger could mercilessly slay people. But then again, the bastards did kill his dog; so I guess they had it coming.
I was reminded of Sylvester Stallone's subtle but powerful performance as John Rambo in the classic First Blood (1982). To his credit, Wahlberg actually underwent the rigorous training of a Marine scout sniper for the film.
But Hollywood gives a little too much credence to military training explaining a character's superhuman skill set. While such training, especially that of the elite Marine scout sniper is impressive, this film would have you believe that Swagger must be much more skilled (and way luckier) than any man in the history of armed conflict.
For example, apparently you can be shot multiple times, all you need is some sugar, a little tape and a knife, and you'll be just fine. Still, it's a lot of fun to just go along for the wild ride.
In the end you believe the action in the same way you believe James Bond can do the things he does. You can't help but root for a maverick like Swagger, who stands on principle and sticks it to the establishment, just like John Rambo.
Glover is menacing enough as the sinister Colonel Johnson. Kate Mara is the love interest that patches up Swagger's body and just might mend his heart someday. Unlike Rambo, at least Swagger has the good sense to knock himself out and lets someone else sew his wounds with thread.
Michael Peña plays a novice FBI agent who risks his neck and career to help Swagger. Ned Betty provides a small but very delightful turn as the corrupt Senator who is pulling Colonel Johnson's strings.
The always terrific Elias Koteas is underused here as one of Colonel Johnson's henchmen. And I would be remiss if I did not mention the sultry Rhona Mitra, who plays Pena's work colleague and reluctant partner.
Shooter is skillfully directed by Antoine Fuqua, who also helmed the excellent Training Day (2001). This movie is not nearly as deep and nuanced as the former, but it is one helluva ride.
If you're looking for a thriller that is sleek, high on action, but also smart, with just the right measure of political intrigue, then Shooter is the film for you.
Shooter releases in theaters March 23.