Review: ‘Shooter’ works despite its familiarity
“Shooter” is odd. It’s a 10-part TV series based on the Mark Wahlberg movie of the same title, based on Stephen Hunter’s book “Point of Impact.” And for anyone who has seen the film — which is a lot of people — watching the show’s opening episode is going to feel like deja vu all over again.
Aside from a few tweaks, it is essentially the same as the film’s beginning. So are they just going to string a story lots of people already know out over 10 hours instead of wrapping things up in two? Apparently.
The other odd thing is this is fairly straightforward conspiracy stuff coming on the USA network, which has lately been given to grandiose bizzaro flights of fancy such as “Mr. Robot” and “Falling Water.” This feels like the network is coming down to earth.
Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and “Shooter” isn’t necessarily a bad series, just derivative. But Hunter’s novel, and lead character, still provide a strong framework that can indeed be stretched.
That lead character would be Bob Lee Swagger (Ryan Phillipe), the Marine Corps’ number one sniper, now apparently retired and living in Washington with his wife (Shantel VanSanten) and precious young daughter (Lexy Kolker). This is tweak number one: In the movie all Swagger had was a dog.
Exactly how Bob Lee affords all this is unclear — neither he nor his wife seem to work. But that’s TV. One day Bob Lee’s ex-commander (Omar Epps), now with the Secret Service, drives up and asks him to help out with a special assignment: The President will be visiting Seattle and they suspect a sniper will be gunning for him. Will Bob Lee help the Secret Service find likely sniper spots?
Sure, why not? Except by the end of the first episode it turns out Bob Lee’s been set up as a fall guy for the assassination. After a short imprisonment (tweak number two), Bob Lee is out on the run trying to prove himself innocent while protecting his family, with the help of a sympathetic female FBI agent (Cynthia Addai-Robinson as tweak number three; in the movie the FBI agent was male). Now Bob Lee is going on the hunt for those who framed him.
Bob Lee being Bob Lee, the show has a high body count. It also has Detroiter Tom Sizemore as the CIA honcho pulling all the strings, and it’s nice to see him again. For that matter, it’s nice to see Bob Lee; watching “Shooter” as a series is like falling back into a well-known and familiar story, just one with lots of guns. It’s downright comfortable. And that’s odd.
Tom Long is a longtime culture critic
10 p.m. Tuesday