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Shooter (4K Ultra HD)
U.S. Marine Gunnery Sergeant Bob Lee Swagger (Mark Wahlberg) is the best sniper in the military, but is left to die behind enemy lines in Ethiopia when his handlers go rogue. Several years later, Swagger is living alone in rural Wyoming. Retired U.S. Army Colonel Isaac Johnson (Danny Glover) tells Swagger the government believes someone is planning to kill the President of the United States, and Swagger is needed to stop the assassination. He travels to several U.S. cities and determines the only likely site for the killing is Philadelphia, where the president is set to speak alongside Ethiopian Archbishop Desmond Mutumbo (Dean McKenzie). The research request turns out to be a setup, and Swagger watches from afar as someone kills the archbishop. Swagger is also wounded, labeled the culprit, and goes on the run, eventually enlisting the help of a sympathetic rookie FBI agent, Nick Memphis (Michael Pena), and the wife of his former spotter, Sarah Fenn (Kata Mara), to clear his name.
After the critical success of Training Day in 2001, Director Antoine Fuqua saw his action follow-ups Tears of the Sun and King Arthur meet harsh reviews. Shooter fared better with the critics and is a relatively straightforward thriller with an undercurrent of government corruption. There is nothing particularly unique about Shooter but it is a solid, workmanlike action film with a good performance from Wahlberg. The twists unravel fairly easily, but Shooter is more concerned with following Swagger as he mends from his injuries and upends the conspiracy than creating than a convoluted whodunnit.
The film offers some light political scandal in the corrupt actors working within a legitimate government, and a character tells Swagger that sometimes the streets do need to be cleaned up with a gun, like in the Wild West. Glover offers an understated, effective performance as Johnson, a man clearly convinced of his own value, and Pena brings some humanity to the film as a new agent underwhelmed by the ethics of his colleagues. Mara is also good in a limited role, and her character tells Swagger she abandoned her dreams of being a nurse after her husband was killed in action. Other supporting actors include Rhona Mitra as an FBI agent who assists Memphis and the late Ned Beatty as corrupt U.S. Senator Charles F. Meachum.
Shooter moves through its 126 minutes at a good clip, keeping the action moving forward from location to location. Swagger is believably deadly but never over-the-top in his quest to punish those involved in the corruption. Fuqua also wisely makes Swagger a patriot without unnecessary rah-rah sensationalism or political pandering. His love of country is a strong motivator, but the man has morals and principles. Based on the novel "Point of Impact" by Stephen Hunter, a soldier, novelist and Washington Post writer, Shooter offers immersive action, cat-and-mouse thrills and corruption drama in one tidy, entertaining package. It may not be the most memorable action film of the early 2000s, but it gets the job done.
THE 4K ULTRA HD:
The film was originally released on Blu-ray back in July 2007, right before Paramount temporarily went exclusively HD-DVD in the format wars, so this 4K upgrade is certainly warranted after 15 years. Paramount serves up a 2.35:1/2160p/HEVC/H.265 image with Dolby Vision and HDR10 from a native 4K source. Paramount continues to excel in catalogue releases, and Shooter is no exception. The transfer is filmic and lifelike, with a nicely resolved layer of grain throughout. Fuqua shoots in softer focus for many shots, but detail and texture are nonetheless impressive. Viewers familiar with the original HD image will notice immediate upgrades in depth and detail. The HDR pass offers beautifully realized colors, inky blanks and pleasing highlights. Every detail of Swagger's weapons and ammo is visible, as are his bloody wounds and grease-smeared face while on the lam. I noticed no issues with edge enhancement or print damage.
This release offers a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix that, while not an Atmos or 7.1 presentation, is totally immersive and a significant upgrade over the previous 5.1 Dolby Digital mix. The movie offers plenty of opportunity for action elements, including whizzing bullets, impact splatter and huge explosions. These elements make use of the entire sound field and LFE. Crowd noise, weather and other ambient effects also provide good surround interaction. Dialogue is clear and balanced appropriately with effects and score. The disc also includes German, Spanish, French, and Japanese 5.1 Dolby Digital mixes, plus a huge list of subtitle options.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This single-disc release includes a digital copy code. The disc comes in an attractive SteelBook for the 15th Anniversary with simple, yet effective artwork. The recycled extras include Survival of the Fittest: The Making of Shooter (21:50/HD), a reasonably informative piece with on-set footage and interviews; Independence Hall (7:19/HD), about one of the film's action set pieces; and Deleted Scenes (11:50 total/HD). Noticeably absent is the director's commentary track from the Blu-ray release.
Director Antoine Fuqua and Mark Wahlberg's original collaboration is their best, and Shooter offers old-school action thrills amid some political corruption drama. It may not be the most memorable action film of the early 2000s, but Shooter is solid, workmanlike entertainment. The new 4K Ultra HD release offers upgraded picture and sound and SteelBook packaging. Recommended.
William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.