Shooter

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Shooter is a 2007 film directed by Antoine Fuqua, featuring Mark Wahlberg as Bob Lee Swagger, an ex-marine sniper who was disillusioned with the government after he was left behind enemy lines during a mission, only escaping on his own terms. It is based on the 1993 novel Point of Impact by Stephen Hunter, although it does deviate from the source material in several parts.

Yet because he is the best at what he does, he is recruited by the government to help track down a potential sniper, only to become the scapegoat as part of a Government Conspiracy. Swagger goes on the run but knows he has to fight back, recruiting rookie FBI agent Nick Memphis to investigate. What they find reveals new details about the mission where Bob was trapped behind enemy lines.

Meanwhile, the widow of Bob's sniper partner is also dragged into the events, and Bob has to save her, though she is not a traditional Damsel in Distress either.

Shooter enjoyed moderate box office success and some critical acclaim. In its genre, it is a conspiracy thriller, and rides on the paranoia of the Bush years. It also owes a lot to The Bourne Series (including the general resemblance between Wahlberg and Matt Damon), although the sniper angle and being rated R works in seperating itself from other Follow the Leader types.

Tropes used in Shooter include:
  • Awesome McCoolname: If you're gonna cross modern political thriller with an 80s style action movie, you need cool names. Thankfully, Bob Lee Swagger fits the bill. Hell, even the sidekick has one: Nick Memphis. In fact, you can tell Nick's going to be significant because he's the only person in the film with a name even half as cool as Swagger.
    • In a later book, Stephen Hunter thanks the man he named Earl and Bob Lee Swagger after.
  • Artistic License: The advisor for the film said that the assassination shot that starts up the plot in reality should have split the target's head in half. But while it would have been more realistic it would have been more graphic than the filmmakers wanted.
  • Artistic License Gun Safety: Signficantly averted, as Swagger's religious care of his own rifle is a major plot point later in the film. At least two examples of this become significant plot points; see Chekhov's Gun.
  • BFG: Bob's Cheyenne Tactical M200 Intervention which he supposedly used to try assassinate the president, and hit the Ethiopian archbishop. Even bigger is the Barrett .50 cal he uses against the helicopter in the opening scene.
  • Blasting It Out of Their Hands: Swagger makes a long-range sniper shot to blow a gun in half Payne is using to threaten his hostage; it looks like shrapnel was propelled into his hand, possibly taking off part of his finger. Subverted seconds later when, while the Payne expresses admiration at the first shot, Swagger fires again and blows off his arm just below the elbow.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Well, Chekhov's firing pin anyway. We see Bob doing something to his rifle just before he leaves for the mission. It turns out to be extremely important.
    • Another example is when Swagger and the government team are in place, preparing to apprehend the alleged assassin. Swagger notices the cop in the room has his service pistol unsecured and points it out.
  • Clear My Name
  • Cold Sniper: Bob, but Sandor is downright sadistic, and is wheelchair-bound, as when his location was discovered during a battle, his opponents took no chances and targeted him with the artillery. [1]
  • Colonel Badass: Colonel (retired) Johnson. His role in the movie is more of a Smug Snake / Corrupt Bureaucrat, but at the beginning he shows Swagger a Medal of Honor. This is the highest medal a US military member can receive, requires an act of Congress to issue, and it's very often awarded posthumously.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: Though he knows they're more than just theories.
  • Crazy Survivalist: Bob after the Ethiopia mission.
  • Development Hell: It took 14 years after the novel came out before the movie was finally made. During this period several scripts were written and discarded, including one by Stephen Hunter himself (he admits that it wasn't very good, commenting "I'm a better novelist than I am a screenwriter"). The plans to make a film of Point of Impact began back in the mid-1990s, with Tommy Lee Jones intended to play Bob Lee Swagger.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: An innocent man made a scapegoat for an assassination attempt on a President while the actual shooter was somewhere else entirely? Sounds a lot like Who Shot JFK?.
  • Establishing Character Moment: We know Swagger's the best sniper because in the opening scene he snipes a helicopter down.
  • Fatal Family Photo: Bob's spotter just had to show a picture of his wife before they were assaulted. It's like Antoine Fuqua wanted to step into the shot, wave at the viewers, and yell "this man is about to die!" though a megaphone. But considering the rest of the movie.. it's understandable why they did it.
  • The Film of the Book: Based off a book by Washington Post movie critic Stephen Hunter, fairly loosely.
  • Foreshadowing: Near the opening of the film, Johnson and his friends mention that the CIA guy overseeing the operation that hung Bob and his spotter out to dry died mysteriously shortly thereafter, though they never pinned anything on Bob. Guess what happens to those same men near the end of the film?
  • "Get Out of Jail Free" Card: In the end, Swagger is acquitted of the crime he was framed for, the assassination of an African archbishop, by proving that the murder weapon could not have been used, thus he could not have fired it. This seems perfectly logical, but no one, not even the incognito Big Bad who was sitting right next to the war council, seems to address the fact that Swagger killed probably hundreds of men and caused untold amounts of property damage between the beginning of the film and now in his quest for vengeance.
    • Well, not hundreds. The ones he did kill were the ones torturing an FBI agent, mercenaries protecting a war criminal and assassin, and the ones on the glacier who were there to kill him. The ones at the end of the film qualify, but one gets the impression the government was quite willing to look the other way as he cleaned up some of their own garbage.
      • They were authority figures who supported illegal and highly murderous ends in a supposed attempt to make a better world, so it is nicely ironic that they become fair game themselves. That's why Swagger says what he says before shooting the congressmen. If the lawmen himself becomes the vigilante...
  • The Government: Evil as usual.
    • Parts of it. The scene at the end shows some of it is still working since Bob Lee shouldn't have been able to leave that quickly.
  • Gunman with Three Names: Bob Lee Swagger. Lee may be a reference to Lee Harvey Oswald. Swagger to military joke; bullet trajectory calculations are sometimes called "SWAG" -- Sophisticated Wild-Ass Guess
    • Swagger is the name of a man the author knew. He borrowed the man's name for both Swaggers.
  • Hey, It's That Guy!: Murtagh and Casey Jones are your resident baddies for the film.
  • I Have Your Wife: The bad guys kidnap Sarah, which makes Bob realize how much he cares for her.

Nick Memphis: I didn't know you had a woman.
Bob Lee Swagger: Neither did I... until they took her.

  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Well, yes.
    • YMMV - Swagger is a USMC Scout Sniper after all. Though taking out the rotor of a moving helicopter from a standing position with an unsupported Barrett M82 - a 14+ kg weapon with a huge recoil - is still a bit of a stretch.
  • It's Personal

Agent Memphis: You could hire a good lawyer and I'll call the Bureau. They can work out some kind of deal. This is explainable. You can prove that you didn't shoot the Archbishop.
Swagger: I don't think you understand. These boys killed my dog.

  • Kick the Dog: The conspirators shoot Bob's dog when they retrieved one of his rifles from his house.
  • The Moral Substitute: Sometimes called a left-wing action movie. Bob is seen reading zmag.org and keeps a copy of the 9/11 commission report on his desk. In another scene, Nick is wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt.
    • Bob's deep suspicion for all things government can be explained by him losing his best friend and being left to die behind enemy lines during a mission that will never be made public. Nick, bright-eyed FBI agent, wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt...not so much. True, he needed a change of clothes after his "session" with the Colonel's torture techs, so he had to wear what he could find in a hurry, but where does one find a Che Guevara shirt in rural Tennessee?
    • Somewhat ironic since a whole chapter in the book is devoted to the media's reaction to the assassination and their twisting of the facts, which at least one columnist uses to push for a gun ban.
      • Stephen Hunter refuses to pick a side. He thinks the bureaucracy is dumb, but is in favor of some of it. A good example is that though he is opposed to gun bans, he is a dedicated supporter of registration.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Many believe that the corrupt US Senator played by Ned Beatty was intended by the director to be a stand-in for Dick Cheney.
  • One-Scene Wonder: The elderly firearms expert. Not only does he fill in a lingering plot hole, but every line he says is in turns quotable, meaningful, and hilarious.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Averted. Bob is shot in the shoulder and leg during the frame-up. He escapes, but moves with a limp. He's uses a first-aid kit to stop his bleeding. Later he makes a makeshift IV and dressing for his wounds. He still requires medical care to properly treat them, and get the bullets out.
  • Playing Possum: Swagger is badly wounded after being shot twice, but as a highly trained Marine Scout Sniper he is far from disabled. He plays up his injuries so FBI Agent Memphis will get close to him, then quickly disarms him and steals his car.
  • Pull the IV: Swagger does this to himself; he's been shot and knows he's going into shock from blood loss, so he improvises an IV set using aquarium tubing, plastic soda bottles, and a basting needle. Once he's bolused himself with a liter or so of homemade sugar-salt solution, he yanks the line out and continues on his merry Badass way.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: In the book, Swagger was a Vietnam Shell-Shocked Veteran, meaning you'd need to cast Tommy Lee Jones to maintain his Action Hero status. Substituting the Gulf War enabled them to maintain the Present Day setting with a younger Swagger. The rest is translated faithfully... except the opening sequence where Swagger covers the evac of the operation the Archbishop was killed to suppress.
  • Private Military Contractors
  • Properly Paranoid: Bob Lee Swagger is this in spades, as evidenced by the Chekhov's Gun entry. Let's expand that a bit: Taking the firing pins out of his rifles when he puts them away would be just as effective at preventing accidents or unauthorized use. But Bob goes the extra mile and replaces them with custom-modified pins that will not fire. The only reason for this would be to fool someone who was deliberately trying to frame him, and who would know to check the firing pin. Which means he planned for that exact scenario.
    • The book makes it clear that while he agrees to work with the government to stop the assassination, he doesn't trust them, and decides to prepare for specific eventualities.
  • Reality Ensues: The climax of the film is about four or five of these, stacked on top of each other like Jenga.
  • Revealing Coverup: When the policeman who shot at Bob dies a few days later "in a botched robbery", Nick sees right through it.
  • Scope Snipe: Obligatory, for a sniper movie. Happens during the mountaintop confrontation.
  • Self-Stitching: Bob's initial patchup, though unusually he follows it up by seeking proper attention from a (semi-)trained nurse.
  • Shoot the Fuel Tank: A helicopter is taken down by shooting a propane tank it was hovering above.
  • Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids: This is implied towards the end of the film as the protagonist tries to bring down a corrupt senator, a colonel, and a group of Private Military Contractors. The film even includes the "This is the "real world" type of speech from the Attorney General towards Bob Lee Swagger. Of course, his Exact Words are...

"For the record, I don't like how this turned out any more then you do. But 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 it's exactly what is needed... Bob Lee Swagger, you're free to go."

"I win. You lose. Again."

  • Spotting the Thread: Nick Memphis is tipped off that something isn't quite right when the government investigation into the Ethiopian Arch-Bishop is too efficient. To be exact, despite the scene of the shooting still being locked down twelve minutes after the shooting - with FBI helicopters yet to begin pursuit, the ballistics report arrives just ten minutes later.

Nick Memphis: We work for the federal government. We're not that good at our jobs.

  • Took a Level in Badass: Nick goes from befuddled FBI rook to a useful ally for Swagger. This was better-explained in the book, where Nick was an ex-sniper.
  • This Means War: Swagger got upset when they framed him for trying to kill the President and tried to kill him. But he really declared war when they killed his dog!
  • Training Montage: Nick Memphis goes from rookie FBI agent to a sniper thanks to a lesson by Bob.
  • Unflinching Walk: At the end when Swagger blows up Senator Meachum's cabin
  • Who Shot JFK?

Mr. Rate: That's how a conspiracy works. Them boys on the Grassy Knoll they were dead within three hours, buried in the damned desert, unmarked graves out past Terlingua.
Nick Memphis: You know this for a fact?
Mr. Rate: Still got the shovel...

  • Wrongful Accusation Insurance: As soon as Bob was able to prove that the FBI's evidence against him was fake, he was free to go. This is in spite of his merciless slaughter of henchmen, soldiers, and military snipers. Sure, it was in self defense and in defense of Memphis, but his high-influence political enemies had no reason not to nail him for it.
    • It really helps, however, that everyone he killed did not legally exist. The henchmen torturing Memphis - legally dead years before. The army that ambushed him at the cabin -- an American-trained Chilean death squad mercenary unit who weren't even authorized to be in the US, let alone carrying state-of-the-art weapons and flying a helicopter gunship. The snipers on the mountain - more mercenary henchmen. If The Government came down on Swagger, they'd be admitting the existence of an entire organization of state-sponsored terrorists. Make Watergate look like the President was hit by a pie. They probably were planning to "neutralize" Bob themselves, but he drew first.

In addition to many of the above tropes, Point of Impact provides examples of:[edit | hide | hide all]

  • And Your Little Dog, Too: Bad idea.
  • Anti-Hero: Bob Lee Swagger is up there.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: The book as a whole is no stranger to language, but Payne thinks in these terms. His death scene is quite something.
  • The Dragon: Jack Payne
  • Everything's Better with Bob: Dr. Dobbler would like you to know that Bob Lee Swagger's first name is Bob. Not Robert, Bob. In fact, the only sources to get this wrong are a few voices in the media circus, but that's the least of what they do.
  • Evil Cripple: Lon Scott, the real sniper. His immobility is a major plot point.
  • Freudian Excuse: Lon Scott was accidentally shot in the spine by his father at a relatively young age, paralyzing him, days after which his father committed suicide. Messed him up something fierce.
  • Heel Face Turn: Dr. Dobbler
  • Lawful Good: Nick Memphis has this unambiguously nailed.
  • Let's You and Him Fight: Bob and Nick's first meeting has Nick trying to arrest Bob for a crime he didn't commit. Bob wins.
  • My Greatest Failure: Nick accidentally shooting Myra, even though it wasn't entirely his fault, has never quite left him. It hasn't done him any good.
  • Older Hero vs. Younger Villain: Though not present in the "main" story, the high-stakes hearing at the end pits Bob's elderly lawyer friend Sam Vincent against the ambitious young Amoral Attorney Phil Kelso.
  • Posthumous Character: The closest thing to a major female character for the first two hundred pages, Myra, died just before the events of the story.
  • Shown Their Work: Or, as one reviewer put it, "Stephen Hunter has done for the sniper rifle what Tom Clancy did for the nuclear submarine."
  • Smug Snake: Howard D. Utey - "Howdy Duty" to anyone he's crossed - but call him that and you'd better be prepared for a lot of Bothering by the Book.

"He was careful to have men under him who were not quite as bright as he, and he particularly understood the dangers of talent, which was that while it was capable of producing spectacular results, it was just as apt to go off by itself to nurse obscure grudges or lick psychic wounds after gross expenditures of energy. Talent wasn't consistent or loyal or pliant enough to be trusted; Howard deeply hated talent, and made certain that none of the men who worked for him ever had any talent. He'd driven seven talented men out of the Bureau and only one had stood against him, the idiot Nick Memphis, once so bright and brimming with enthusiasm, carefully betrayed at each step of the way, and yet stubborn in his refusal to leave the Bureau."

    • For complete reference, prior to the events of the book, Utey was Memphis's superior during a hostage situation where Memphis was attempting to snipe a gunman holding a woman hostage. He yells in Memphis's earbuds just as he takes the shot, making him hit the woman! That's not conjecture either - Swagger simulates the shot, and is only able to make it by using his training to tune out the screeching over his radio.
      • It's implied that he's a willing member of RamDyne's conspiracy - especially his Villainous BSOD upon seeing Swagger walk.
  • The Vietnam War: An integral part of many characters' backstories, including Swagger, Payne and Shreck.
  1. Tanks have been used in the counter-sniper role in Iraq, and artillery shelling has been done to snipers since at least World War I. They don't like it and it reduces life expectancy.