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Shooter is a 2007 conspiracy thriller directed by Antoine Fuqua based on the novel Point of Impact by Stephen Hunter. The film concerns a former United States Marine Corps Scout Sniper, Bob Lee Swagger (Mark Wahlberg) who is framed for murder by a rogue secret Private military company unit. The film was shot mainly in British Columbiamarker, Canada. It was released on March 23, 2007. The film's DVD was released on June 26, 2007, reaching the top of the sales charts.


Bob Lee Swagger (Mark Wahlberg), a retired Gunnery Sergeant Marine Scout Sniper, is one of the few snipers in the world whose sharpshooting abilities allow him to "take out a target from a mile away." He reluctantly leaves a self-imposed exile from his isolated mountain home at the request of Colonel Isaac Johnson (Danny Glover). Johnson appeals to his expertise and patriotism to help track down an assassin who plans on shooting the president from a great distance with a high powered rifle. Johnson gives him a list of three cities where the President is scheduled to visit so Swagger could determine if an attempt could be made at any of them.

Swagger assesses each of the locations and determines that a site in Philadelphiamarker would be most conducive to a long range assassination attempt. He passes this information to Johnson, who purportedly arranges for a response. This turns out to be a set-up: while Swagger is working with Johnson's agents — including a local police officer — to find the rumored assassin, the Ethiopian archbishop is instead assassinated while standing next to the president. Swagger is shot by the officer, but manages to escape. The agents tell the police and public that Swagger is the shooter, and stage a massive manhunt for the injured sniper. However, Swagger has a stroke of luck — he meets a rookie FBImarker special agent, Nick Memphis (Michael Peña), disarms him and steals his car.

He is thus able to use the first aid supplies in the car to staunch his wounds and escape by driving into the Delaware River while being chased. He then takes refuge with Sarah Fenn (Kate Mara), widow of Swagger's late spotter and close friend Donnie Fenn, killed years before in a mission in Africa where Swagger himself barely survived. She saves his life by cleaning and stitching Swagger's gunshot wounds, and he later convinces her to help him contact Memphis with information on the conspiracy. Memphis is blamed for allowing Swagger's escape and is disciplined for negligence. However, he independently learns that Swagger may have been framed for the assassination by finding several inconsistencies in the evidence and witness statements provided to the FBI by an unnamed federal agency.

When the rogue agents realize their secret is compromised, they kidnap Memphis and attempt to stage his suicide. Swagger tails the agents and kills Memphis' captors with a scoped .22 rifle equipped with a homemade silencer. Swagger and Memphis then join forces and visit a firearms expert (Levon Helm) in Athens, Tennesseemarker. Together they plot to capture who they think is the real assassin, an ex-sniper allied with Colonel Johnson. Once they find him in Lynchburg, Virginiamarker, he commits suicide after revealing that the archbishop was actually the real target and he was murdered in order to prevent him from speaking out against U.S. involvement in the genocide of an Ethiopian village. The genocide was carried out on behalf of a consortium of American corporate oil interests headed by corrupt Senator Charles Meachum (Beatty); Swagger learns that the mission where Fenn was killed was also a part of the genocide as they were tasked to cover the withdrawal of the contractors assigned to the job. Swagger records the ex–sniper's confession of his involvement in the African genocide. Then, with Memphis's assistance, he escapes from an ambush by killing 24 mercenaries.

Meanwhile, other rogue mercenaries have kidnapped Sarah in order to lure Swagger out of hiding. With his new evidence and cat-and-mouse strategy, Swagger and Memphis are able to rescue her when Colonel Johnson and Senator Meachum arrange a meeting to exchange their hostage for the evidence of their wrongdoing. After killing several enemy snipers in an isolated mountain range and rescuing Sarah, Swagger and Memphis finally surrender to the FBImarker.

Later appearing in a closed meeting with the Director of the FBI and the United States Attorney General present, Swagger clears his name by loading a rifle round (supplied by Memphis) into his rifle (which is there as evidence since it was supposedly used in the killing), aiming it at the Colonel and pulling the trigger — which fails to fire the round. Swagger explains that every time he leaves his house, he takes out all the firing pins replacing them with slightly shorter ones, thus rendering them unable to fire until he returns. Although Swagger is exonerated, Colonel Johnson takes advantage of a legal loophole — the Ethiopian genocide is outside American legal jurisdiction — and walks free. The attorney general approaches Swagger and states that as a law enforcement official, he must abide by the law (he insinuates that if it was the "wild west" it would be appropriate to clean the system with a gun). Afterwards, the Colonel and the Senator plan their next move while at the Senator's vacation house — only to be interrupted by an attack by Swagger. He kills both conspirators, one of the Colonel's aides and two bodyguards, then breaks open a gas valve before leaving. The fire in the fireplace ignites the gas, blowing up the house. The final scene shows Swagger getting into a car with Fenn and driving away.


Mark Wahlberg at a London premiere for Shooter.

Differences between the novel and the screenplay

The greatest difference between Point of Impact and Shooter is that Swagger in the novel is in his mid 40s, a veteran of the war in Vietnammarker, while in the film Swagger was a younger veteran of combat in Ethiopia in the early 21st century. Sarah is likewise much younger. Otherwise, the film largely follows the novel, though several subplots are eliminated or modified for the sake of brevity. One of the most relevant of these is the instance in which Bob fakes his death in order to buy himself time. The character of Nick Memphis is reduced from a major, well-developed character (also a trained sniper) to a sidekick, and his relationships with supervisor Howard D. Utey and a female coworker are barely addressed.

Utey's last name is even changed, eliminating the "Howdy Duty" plot line. In the novel, Utey was connected to the conspiracy, and attempts to influence Memphis' testimony in the climactic trial. In the film, Howard is little more than a bit part. Dobbins (Dobbler in the novel), the psychologist, loses all depth of character—he is killed in the "final comeuppance" scene. In the novel, the Colonel is killed during the fight on the mountaintop, as is the wheelchair-bound sniper. The climax in the novel is Swagger's public trial, in which Swagger's innocence is proven the same way, but in front of a media-packed courtroom (with Howard D. Utey being the big loser). The film features a secret hearing, with the climax taking place in the Senator's cabin.

Another fundamental difference is the manner of death of Swagger's spotter, Donny. In the novel Donny was shot by a Russian sniper, who had been under orders to pursue him because Donny unwittingly held harmful information. As this was relevant to the plot of a subsequent novel, in the screenplay it was deemed simpler to have Donny die in the line of duty.

Sniper weapons and tactics

Shooter depicts a number of sniper tactics, thanks to the guidance of former U.S. Marine scout sniper Patrick Garrity, who trained Mark Wahlberg in sniper tactics. Garrity taught Wahlberg to shoot both left and right-handed (the actor is left-handed), as he had to switch shooting posture throughout the movie, due to Swagger's sustained injuries. He was also trained to adjust a weapon's scope, judge effects of wind to a shot, do rapid bolt manipulation and develop special breathing skills. His training included extreme distance shooting (up to 1,100 yards), and the use of camouflage ghillie suits. Fuqua appointed Garrity as the film's military technical advisor.

Garrity is on record as pointing out that the shot fired in the assassination would not have hit the archbishop straight on, as in the film, but rather dropped down onto the top of his skull, likely blowing apart his entire head. Garrity goes on to explain that realism was deemed to be too gory an approach to be in the film on this occasion.

Throughout the film, Swagger uses an array of sniper weapons, among which are the USMC M40A3 rifle and Barrett M82 sniper rifles and Donnie Fenn used an M4 Carbine with a M203 grenade launcher and M68 Close Combat Optic in the African opening sequences, Cheyenne Tactical M-200 Intervention in .408 CheyTac used to shoot the Dinty Moore stew can, and Remington 700P in .308 Winchester (7.62x51mm NATO). Weapons used by Swagger include a Beretta M9 and a commandeered M4 Carbine with Aimpoint Sight, in the fight against the 24 mercenaries and a Colt M1911-A1 with a silenced Steyr AUG in the final shootout scene.

Also appearing in the film is a Precision Remotes Telepresent Rapid-Aiming Platform (TRAP), a remotely-operated weapon platform that accepts a standard rifle. Precision Remotes' website appears in the film, and the company is credited in the closing credits.


The score to the film was composed by Mark Mancina, who recorded the music at the Todd-AO Scoring Stage in Studio Citymarker, CAmarker, using a 77–piece orchestra conducted by Don Harper. A score soundtrack was released by Lakeshore Records on March 27, 2007. The song "Nasty Letter" by Otis Taylor plays over the end of the film and credits.


Critical response to the film was mixed. Rotten Tomatoes reports a 47% rating; Metacritic assigns 57, which indicates "mixed or average" and scored 7.5/10 from users based on 70 votes. Empire had a verdict of 'The sequel-ready Swagger challenges Bourne’s supremacy with an impressive shoot-’em-up, work-it-out action drama.'

Some film critics, both liberal and conservative, saw the film as left-leaning in its politics, arguing that the main villain was a clear analogy for Dick Cheney.

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