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Bob Lee Swagger, a former Marine Corps sniper, leaves the military after a mission goes bad. After he is reluctantly pressed back into service, Swagger is double-crossed again. With two bullets in him and the subject of a nationwide manhunt, Swagger begins his revenge, which will take down the most powerful people in the country.
For more about Shooter and the Shooter Blu-ray release, see Shooter Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on February 27, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Michael Peña, Danny Glover, Kate Mara, Elias Koteas, Rhona Mitra
Director: Antoine Fuqua
» See full cast & crew
Shooter Blu-ray Review
Is this Blu-ray worth "picking off" the shelf and watching?
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, February 27, 2008
This is the world we live in, and justice does not always prevail. It's not the wild west where you can clean up the streets with a gun, even though sometimes that's exactly what's needed.
With the recent news of Blu-ray's total victory over rival format HD DVD and the announcement that we will once again be seeing Paramount Blu-ray titles on store shelves, I thought that this is as good a time as any to review the studio's most popular Blu-ray title to date, Shooter. Released only weeks before the studio switched allegiances to HD DVD exclusively in August 2007, the disc was the studio's next to last release on the Blu-ray format (Disturbia would be released a week later). Selling in excess of $50 or more on auction sites, copies disappeared quickly from store shelves as Blu-ray fans sought to add this film to their collection, in some cases paying double or triple retail value. Now that the studio is once again Blu-ray exclusive, we may very well see copies of this film popping up on store shelves very soon. If and when it does so, will it be worth your Blu-ray dollars, and was the disc worth the exorbitant prices some dedicated Blu-ray fans paid to have it in their collection?
Mark Whalberg (We Own the Night) stars as U.S. Marine Gunnery Sergeant Bob Lee Swagger, the best sniper in the business. On a mission in Ethiopia, he and his partner are left for dead by their own government when they are ambushed by a group of heavily armed men. Swagger escapes, but his partner is killed in the attack. Several years later, Swagger lives alone in the mountains and is approached by Colonel Isaac Johnson (Danny Glover, Saw) to help his country in preventing an assassination attempt on the President of the United States. Swagger reluctantly agrees and heads to several east coast cities where the President will be speaking. He finally decides that Philadelphia is the city best suited for the potential shooter, and through his description of the likely set-up for the shot, he unwittingly plans the assassination for a group of unscrupulous men, whose reach goes far and wide, into the upper echelons of power. Set up to be the patsy, Swagger barely escapes with his life and unwittingly involves a rookie FBI agent Nick Memphis (Michael Peña, World Trade Center), a man who begins to piece together the assassination in hopes of exonerating Swagger. Swagger becomes a man on a mission, out to prove himself innocent and punish those responsible for setting him up as the fall guy in one of the most notorious crimes in history.
One of my favorite directors, Antoine Fuqua, has once again delivered an exciting, well-crafted, expertly acted, and strongly directed film. His Training Day remains, in my mind, one of if not the finest good cop/bad cop movies in cinema history, and in Shooter he once again proves his worth as a top-notch filmmaker. I found this movie well-paced, telling a believable story with a sense of realism that only Fuqua and a handful of other directors could ever pull off. Of course, the movie is meant to be nothing more than an exciting, action-packed romp, but it pulls off the material with both grandeur and class, showcasing some wonderful action sequences. It never portrays the hero pulling off the impossible, rather staying true to the kind of damage a Marine "Gunny" could pull off, never making him a superman or more than what he is. Mark Whalberg delivers another fine performance. He's come a long way since his "Marky Mark" days, establishing himself as an A-list actor with the talent to back up that monicker. Michael Peña is also excellent as the strong willed yet somewhat clumsy and unsure of himself FBI agent Nick Memphis (cool name). All in all, Shooter is solid entertainment from top to bottom, proving to be both a first-rate actioner but also a smart thriller, and definitely deeper, more complex, and realistic than your garden variety mindless action flick.
Shooter Blu-ray, Video Quality
Paramount Pictures presents Shooter as a nice looking 2.35:1, 1080p high definition transfer. Encoded with the antiquated MPEG-2 codec, the transfer manages to look very good nonetheless, but it ultimately fails to deliver as a top-tier Blu-ray transfer based on its all-too- clean look. The movie is almost completely grain free, which might satisfy some viewers, but left me wanting a truer theatrical look and feel that the presence of a bit of fine grain brings to a presentation. I did not see the film theatrically and I am not sure if some post-process grain removing was done, but it looked a bit too glossy and plastic-y to me. Otherwise, this is a pretty strong transfer in all other areas. There is some excellent attention to detail, especially on close-ups of human faces. We are privy to every mole, pit, and strand of facial hair, all looking so real you can almost reach out and touch them. Flesh tones are equally as impressive, looking natural and bright. Black levels fare very well. They are not the deepest and truest I've seen, but they are certainly not an embarrassment either, providing a strong contrast to many of the bright, outdoor scenes seen throughout the film. Color reproduction is also outstanding. There is never any overly dull, overly bright, or "hot" colors on display. All in all, and despite the film lacking that theatrical presence, this is still one good looking transfer that should satisfy viewers.
Shooter Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Accompanying Shooter on Blu-ray is a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack that is neither poor nor excellent. Through the entirety of the movie, and despite a few pleasing sonic moments, all I could think about was how much this film would have benefited from a lossless soundtrack. The lossy track here definitely struck me as mostly underwhelming, lacking the punch the material deserves. The track is aggressive in nature and doesn't suffer due to a poor mix, just a poor choice in audio specs for this release. However, dialogue reproduction is outstanding on this disc. Surrounds are pretty active yet slightly muted, never letting loose and engulfing the viewer in the movie's action-packed soundtrack. For example, a scene where a car falls into a river makes for a nice showpiece in sound, but the ultimate lack of immersion was lost on the lossy mix. In such a scene with a lossless mix, I expect to feel everything but wet, and what could have been a nice demo piece turned into a ho-hum listening experience. However, a scene featuring a loud clap of thunder in chapter eight sounded fine. A shootout with automatic weapons and explosives as the movie draws towards its conclusion sounded loud and exciting with a lot of rumbling from the subwoofer, but it clearly lacked the power, realism, and "oomph" that only a lossless mix can deliver. Gunfire, explosions, and the like sounded loud but also somewhat undefined and muffled. All in all, the track is a mixed bag, and it only suffers from not providing us with a true high definition listening experience. Hopefully, when Paramount returns to producing new Blu-ray discs in the coming weeks, lossless or uncompressed sound will be the norm, as was to be the case on their canceled release of Blades of Glory.
Shooter Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Paramount has provided a good amount of supplements for this release of Shooter. First is a feature length commentary track with director Antoine Fuqua. Always good at these, Fuqua is engaging as usual, discussing difficulties in filming (especially in the movie's climactic moments) and crediting the behind-the-scenes people who ensured that locales and technical issues were resolved before the final product went on-screen. Fuqua also spends some time in praise of a real Marine Gunnery Sergeant, Patrick Garrity. Garrity handmade all of the ghillie suits seen throughout the movie and had quite a bit of input to make the film as realistic as possible. There is the typical discussion about what was cut out of the final film and drier, more mundane material as well. Still, Fuqua holds your attention and this track makes for a good listen for fans of the film.
Survival of the Fittest: The Making of 'Shooter' (1080i, 21:50) features the origins of the movie, beginning with an interview with writer Stephen Hunter, whose novel Point of Impact served as the basis for the film. Director Antoine Fuqua, actors Mark Whalberg and Michael Peña, and producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura all discuss the ideas behind the film, the motivations of the characters, and other material. There is a look at the realism that went into the making of the film, including a trip to sniper school by Mark Whalberg and Antoine Fuqua. Patrick Garrity talks about the power of some of the rounds and what they would really do to a human body, and excuses some of the more grotesque absences from the final cut of the film. The real-world impact of these bullets would be far too graphic to display in a movie. This is a fascinating piece, especailly for those interested in firearms. Moving along, Independence Hall (1080i, 7:20) again features Patrick Garrity discussing this crucial setting for the movie and shooting around the famous structure. Seven deleted scenes (1080i, 11:51) and the film's theatrical trailer (1080p, 2:31) conclude the supplements.
Shooter Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
One of Paramount's last Blu-ray discs before the defection, Shooter lives up to its reputation as a much sought after film. While by no means perfect on any level, the Blu-ray is certainly one worthy of any serious collection, and action fans especially should like what they see in this one. From a technical perspective, this discs looks very good, despite a few reservations I had with it, and the audio quality is satisfactory but could have been much, much stronger with a lossless or uncompressed soundtrack. Supplements are intriguing and in-depth, all in high definition, and entertaining to boot. With Paramount's return to Blu-ray solidified and releases imminent, I hope that Shooter finds its way back onto store shelves. It's a solid movie, worth your time if you like action, Mark Whalberg, or Antoine Fuqua films. Recommended if you can find it now at a decent price or if and when it reappears for sale at regular price.
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