Point of impact
Recon by fire
Red on Red
When it comes down to it, Shooter is simply a passable action show that lacks flair or direction. With under-developed characters, some poor dialogue and an unnecessarily convoluted plot, there’s only so much main man Bobby Lee (Ryan Phillipe) can do with this. Shooter starts with a promising premise and a pretty good focus within the first two episodes before it ultimately ends up falling over its own ambition. When the show opens up and more of the conspiracy is uncovered, Shooter just doesn’t have the originality or the conviction to pull off its themes.
The story follows ex marine and sniper specialist Bobby Lee Swagger and his family, living in the rural outback of America away from the busy cities enjoying his retirement from the army. When secret service agent Isaac Johnson (Omar Epps) shows up and enlists Bobby’s help in finding an elusive sniper who aims to kill the President, Bobby winds up the prime suspect during the assassination attempt. With many players involved and framed for the assassination, Bobby Lee tries to prove his innocence while eluding police and the secret service in search for the real sniper. On paper, it seems like a good game of cat and mouse and perhaps this is where Shooter should have focused its attention. A more mystery-driven narrative and a stealthy focus could have been ideal for this show but unfortunately Shooter doesn’t do this. Instead, it over-reaches and extends its sights beyond the initial story to involve a plot spanning multiple governments and numerous high powered individuals. Perhaps with a little more focus and some better characterisation it could have been pulled off but it ultimately feels disappointingly light on this.
The one area that Shooter excels is in its score and action scenes. Both of these are shot well, with a mixture of handheld camera movements and some interesting angles shooting the action. There’s some good editing too, showing some realistic gun fights and depicting the tension during the sniper sections. The over-reliance on the handheld camera doesn’t help with other parts of the show though; where a more stable camera would have been a better option, the wobbling becomes really distracting during scenes showing smartphone and tablet screens that we need to read. Its a minor gripe but once you notice it, its hard not to and it does ultimately detract from the enjoyment.
I mentioned before about the characters and this too proves to be a bit of a problem. The show itself is led by main man Ryan Philippe who plays the role of the sympathetic ex-marine surprisingly well. With a mixture of hard looks, calculated dialogue and agonising longing to be with his family, Phillippe plays the role to perfection. Its not enough to save the rest of the cast though who don’t have much to work with. The script is light on characterisation, painting everyone with a single motive summing them up with a generic trait like “greedy bad guy”, “crooked cop” and “quirky FBI agent going against the majority”. Its a real shame too because the cast is pretty good, but the execution is lacking, the fault laying at the feet of the scriptwriters.
Overall then, Shooter is simply a passable action series. With light characterisation and an over-reaching plot, Shooter relies heavily on a fast-moving plot and some nicely shot action scenes. The action is ultimately the main drawing point of this show though and some of the choreography is very nice indeed. This isn’t a big, intelligent action series, and it doesn’t even have the same nuance to pull off a Jason Bourne or Kingsman feel to it, what it does have though is Ryan Phillippe. His excellent performance drives the show forward but ultimately his shining light is the only redeeming feature of a show that doesn’t quite hit the target.