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I Did Something Weird to Myself Yesterday—I Went to See Shooter.
by Lucius Shepard
April 15, 2007

Recently I’ve seen a number of American movies that have expressed a confused agenda. 300, for instance, is a picture that manages to be at once homophobic and homoerotic, though this is less by design than an inadvertency produced by the juvenile sensibilities of its primary creator, Frank Miller. Shooter, on the other hand, seems deliberate in its confusion. Based on Stephen Hunter’s Robert Lee Swagger novel Point of Impact, the film plays like an alternate-world version of First Blood as directed by Michael Moore. Swagger (embodied here by the artist formerly known as Marky Mark) is your basic ex-marine sniper/superhero/Ruby Ridge kind of guy, a mountain man who loves his dog more’n anything, cept’n maybe his country. Kill such a man’s dog, frame him for an assassination attempt on the President, and you just know he’s going to fly off the handle and kill several hundred people.


It’s your basic Neocon wet dream, right? Yet another update of Walking Tall? It’s got all the symptoms. Ultra-violent. Women whose main function is to change clothes a lot and handle heavy ordinance in bra-and-panties. Villainous politicians and heroic ordinary folk. The thing is, however, each time one of the characters pauses to deliver the movie’s message, whether it’s Swagger or an Instrument of Evil like Col. Johnson (Danny Glover—wasn’t he too old for this shit twenty years ago?), he essentially reads a Blue State liberal position paper on Abu Ghraib and WMDs. In between dialoguing with various and sundry about the illegitimacy of the Iraq war, the Kennedy assassination and his “moral compass,” Swagger flees innumerable pursuers, self-treats his gaping wounds with an IV macgyvered out of a plastic bag, a pound of sugar, and a bicycle pump, and whips up a batch of homebrewed napalm with which he incinerates a passel of National Guardsmen, never mind they’re innocents, fellow soldiers just doing their duty. Swagger is the New Left’s psychopathic serialist, called to the Lord’s work (if the Lord is Eugene McCarthy). He hates injustice so badly, he’ll commit any atrocity to right it.


So the Dems are attempting to win back the wingnut/redneck/Montana-militia vote not by persuading them that gay marriage is for lovers and their children shouldn’t be turned into chum in the service of corporate oil, but by giving them the Air America version of Timothy McVeigh to relate to? Is that what’s happening here? They’re trying to gather a few hearts and minds in the cause of global warming and health insurance for all? If that’s the case, maybe this exercise in violent amorality is a good thing. Or is it just a thin strand of what’s-become-obvious woven throughout in order to provide a structural component to support the bloodletting?


I’m not too sure.