Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews
- Category: Jacqueline Monahan
- Published on 23 November 2008
- Written by Jacqueline Monahan
Las Vegas Round The Clock - http://www.lasvegasroundtheclock.com
Jacqueline Monahan is an English tutor for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also a consultant for Columbia College Chicago in Adjunct Faculty Affairs
Note to corrupt military and government operatives: If you are looking to set someone up, make sure he is not smarter, faster and more adept at tactical manipulation than you are. He will inconveniently stay alive when all you want him to be is dead.
Former Marine gunnery sergeant Bob Lee Swagger (Mark Wahlberg) is one expert marksman and survivalist. A veteran of covert missions, (the last one in Ethiopia got his friend and spotter killed and he himself abandoned by his own military forces) Swagger retreats to a Wyoming mountaintop with Sam, his beer drinking hunting dog. He is approached by retired Colonel Isaac Johnson (Danny Glover) and two questionable associates, who appeal to his patriotism, ostensibly to protect the president. Would Swagger review security possibilities in three cities and report any holes to the Colonel? This requires location surveillance, trajectory calculations, and even wind velocity corrections. The assassin will hit the president from a mile away.
There is a surprising assassination and the tables are suddenly turned on Swagger. He is shot twice by a very large, very slow police officer at point blank range, falling several stories through windows and skylights. Seems Swagger’s been set up by a powerful conglomerate, run by a U.S. Senator with interests in West Africa, specifically, Ethiopia. Hmm…
Rookie FBI agent Nick Memphis (Michael Pena) is at his post not far from the presidential speech/assassination site. While escaping, Swagger overpowers him, handcuffs him to a pipe, steals his gun and car, and leaves him with a few words that start the three-weeks-out-of-the-academy agent thinking about how improbable the crime scene logistics are.
Swagger, now wounded and on the run, shows up at the home of Sarah Fenn (Kate Mara) his dead friend’s wife. It’s been three years. First she is called upon to save his life. Later he will return the favor. In between, the romantic sparks fly, along with bullets and bravado.
Displaying a talent for MacGyver-like ingeniousness and improvisational savvy, Swagger, guiding Fenn through his own impromptu surgery, uses nitrous oxide from aerosol whipped cream cans as an anesthetic. He knows that sugar can stop the bleeding from a gunshot wound.
Swagger is either incredibly skillful or incredibly lucky. He’s as wanted in the U.S. as Osama bin Laden, uses the same truck to get around (he ditched that black government car a long time ago, c’mon now), and is able to visit several states to accomplish his fact-finding missions.
Meanwhile, he acquires a surprisingly effective advocate in Agent Memphis, who’s convinced that Swagger’s been set up, knowing a thing or two about trajectories himself. In order to join forces, Swagger sets up Memphis to be captured by yet another group of corrupt, ruthless individuals, working for the same cesspool of crooked government goons. Memphis endures some very rough treatment until rescued by Swagger. Now they can finally set out to bring about whatever justice is possible (sometimes it’s not).
Swagger and Memphis consult a ballistics expert and conspiracy theorist (scene stealer Levon Helm) who is such a fascinating character, you’ll wish he’d stay on screen more often. He speaks with the absolute certainty of one who knows lots of secrets and finds them all hilarious. He supplies the two with facts concerning ways to falsify ballistic evidence, and they are on the trail of the real perpetrators once more.
Montana Senator Charles Meachum (Ned Beatty) is the arrogant, corpulent bureaucrat at the epicenter of all the intrigue. He‘s the bully on the playground, and there’s oil, betrayal, and genocide in his sandbox. He’s fond of bellowing “I am a United States Senator” as if that fact erases all consequences.
Danny Glover, as the Colonel, is less human than lizard-like, whispering through his scenes to insinuate menace. He taunts Swagger by rasping “I won” while smiling like the Grinch. Big mistake. No one gets away with a Swagger taunt; not a Colonel, not a Senator.
Although there are some (well, many) implausible scenes in the film, I found it cleverly scripted and entertaining. A veteran at the same screening asserted that the ballistics/trajectory dialogue was realistic, something he looks for in a film with military elements. Making it even more credible is Wahlberg’s performance as the seething, yet decent Swagger.
Director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) keeps the action taut and nearly non-stop, packing even quiet scenes with Swagger’s coiled intensity. Jonathan Lemkin’s adapted screenplay (from the Stephen Hunter novel Point of Impact) is a frenetic cat and mouse pursuit and reversal, revealing terrible acts and missing pieces of Swagger’s military history along the way. Fire and blood figure prominently.
If it’s a wild, no-holds-barred, conspiracy ride you enjoy, I’ll hold the convertible door open for you. Shooter will line you up in its sites like an assassin, and blow you away.