Sunday, September 14, 2008

Shooter--A Film Review

Art mimicks life. In Reform Era I -- late 1800s and early 1900s -- many works of art helped trigger the revolt of the ordinary people against the Robber Barons and their Gilded Age. We've come full circle to a new Gilded Age, to the need for Reform Era II. Will art play its role? At least one crew of film-makers thinks so.


Yesterday was about Honor.
Today is about Justice.

Paramount 2007

Movie Database --

The story opens in media res (in the middle of things), with USMC Force Recon sniper scout, Bob Lee Swagger, and his spotter, Donnie Fenn, covering the retreat of contractor-mercinaries. The mercenaries have just massacred a 400-person village in Ethiopia to drive through an oil pipeline. They're being pursued by Ethiopian military forces.

The two Marines are on loan-out and are ignorant of the reality in which they're participating. Donnie asks Bob Lee, "You sure this is a peace-keeping mission?"

The sniper team takes out one threat -- a vehicle carrying a heavy machine gun -- and starts to pack up for extraction. Suddenly a company-strength group of hostiles appears, with an armed helicopter overhead.

Fighting like tigers, the two Marines stop the ground forces about 600 yards out. Donnie fires his 40 mm grenade launcher into their midst, blowing up several.

Oops. Long-range 40mm grenades? According to Jane's, the M203 grenade launcher has a max range of 400 meters, with a max area range of 350 meters, and a max point range of 150 meters. The knowledgeable viewer is lost in HollywOOOd again. The accepting viewer, the one who has thoroughly suspended disbelief, fights on -- sticking himself into the sniper teams's military prowess.

The 600-yard M203 shot is just one of many tech/continuity errors in the film. Tear 'em down, laundry-list them, or ignore them. One way or another, you'll do some kind of work-arounds for a "Congressional Medal of Honor" (not "Congressional" for a very long time); the urban legend of a duct-taped 1-liter plastic pop bottle making an effective, multi-shot silencer for a rifle; 200-yard head-shot kills with a .22 rifle; Bob Lee calculating the shot on the Archbishop as being just beyond 1800 yards and then, later, asking the old man of the rifle if he knows who can make a 2200-yard cold-bore shot; after being a righty shooter all film long, you watch a glacier-top scene in which Bob Lee's left index finger curls around the trigger as he adjusts his scope for windage with his right hand, not only switching hands for film-maker's convenience but violating trigger-finger discipline before being ready to make a shot (an alien thing to a Marine sniper); and, in the AG's office, Bob Lee and Nick Memphis, despite training in the law of nations that their characters would've undergone, suddenly forget that the colonel can't be tried in the US for allegedly murdering 400 villagers in Ethiopia.

But then the strafing helicopter swings around for another pass and Donnie is killed. Bob Lee shoots out the rotor and the chopper goes down with -- fade to black, long pause, and then back to bright with the low-center title, "36 Months Later".

And so it goes. Throughout the film, the first-time viewer is pointed off the plot and sub-plots by action scenes. Plot and sub-plots are pieced together -- laboriously, if at all -- with short backward glances provided by dialog in later scenes.

Strangely, this SOP almost works. It's art mimicking life. It's how you would have to figure things out on the fly if you were personally involved -- if such a plot and sub-plots were being hidden from you-the-Bob-Lee-like-protagonist. However, the antagonists acting out their side of the story do not give the viewer sufficient help. Their main story-line job is to carry the action, not to develop the plot. Plot development scenes too ofter happen with only tenuous connection to the story.

Again, the film's apologists win. Plot and sub-plots in this one are not auto-marginalized -- with unmentioned problems or anything else. The real-world corruption machines of the American and global empires of fascist corporatism (govt plus corporations), fraudulently using tax-dollar-paid private armies of mercenaries to grab obscene profits and power are widely suspected, if not fully-documented reality. The issue cannot be pushed off onto a margin because writers conveniently and intentionally omit relevant details. All relevant details are there. One way or another, the issue will have to be dealt with -- if justice, democracy, and freedom are to survive in America.

The plot is the fraudulent and murderous mis-use of contractor-mercenaries for the gaining of profits and power. The plot includes the wrongful death of Donnie Fenn, the recruitment of Bob Lee as an Oswald-like patsy for the assassination of the Archbishop of Ethiopia. The Archbishop is in the US to name names and other truths about the 400-person village massacre that resulted in the film's opening action. Such truths are worth a killing in the corruption machine's ethos.

Bob Lee is suckered in far enough to become the unwitting spotter for the operator of a computer-aided, remotely fired, large-caliber weapon system. Bob Lee, watching the wind going calmer on flags and streamers around the podium, tells the weapon system operator to shoot by telling the mercenary colonel and others that they have to nab the operator NOW.

A moment before the bullet lands on the Archbishop's head, a local cop, standing behind Bob Lee, shoots and wounds Bob Lee -- twice. Bob Lee is out the window, literally and figuratively. As he escapes down the street against all odds, the antagonists act out little backward glances into plot development.

They've stolen Bob Lee's rifle from his mountain home. They set up the rifle to create a crime scene, complete with one piece of fired brass -- an empty cartridge. Now Bob Lee is on the run as a murder suspect. Bleeding badly, the antagonists expect him to bleed out and die before he can become a real problem. But, of course, he doesn't, and he does become a real problem.

He embroils greenhorn FBI Special Agent Nick Memphis into training up as his new spotter. We're off to the rock and the hard place, with stops at the old man of the rifle's Tennessee home and the Virginia farm of a former brutal sniper who could have made the shot on the Archbishop. The brutal former sniper is wolf-bait wired to a tree, and the farm is a mercenary trap that turns into a wild shoot-em-up. But, as the trap is closing, Bob Lee secretly tapes the former sniper's testimony concerning the village massacre that the Archbishop's murder covers up.

The tape recording propels the plot to its ending in gun-barrel justice.

SUB-PLOT ONE -- the connection between
human expert and computer-aided machine

The colonel from nowhere with many names recruits Bob Lee to set up a US Presidential assassination scenario so that the assassination can be understood and stopped. The assassination, according to intercepts that the colonel holds, will be done with a shot taken from beyond a mile. He doesn't say that the real target is the Archbishop.

Bob Lee to the colonel: "You know what it takes to make a shot at that range? Everything comes into play that far -- humidity, elevation, temperature, winds, spin-drift. The six to ten second flight time? You have to shoot where the target is GOING to be. Even the coriolis effect, the spin of the earth, comes into play. The President will be wearing body armor? That means a head shot. At over a mile? You believe there's a shooter involved capable of making that shot?"

Tough assignment for a human shooter. Child's play for a computer-guided rifle system.

"Then you got a real problem. You need to find the shooter."

Of course, the colonel has already found the shooter. He's the contractor-mercenary under the colonel's command who will press the button to remotely fire a computer-aided, large-caliber, rifle system. What the colonel needs is a highly motivated, expert spotter, like Bob-Lee -- watching for windage corrections near the podium -- to be shot down like a patsy dog when the job is done.

After much suspicious stuff of conspiracy flies together at the FBI field office and is ignored by those agents sold out to the FBI's dominant cultures, greenhorn FBI guy, Nick Memphis, runs his own investigation. He finds tripod-feet holes in a steeple's wood flooring. He goes to an free-Wi-Fi coffee shop, gets into a firearms-related chat room and finds a weapons expert.

Nick chats live -- What weapons system requires a tripod with leg dimension's of 43" x 43" x 29"?

Too easy (the chat comes back). M-3. Supports a wide variety of weapons up to a 50 cal machine gun.

Why would you run a 100 meter cable approx 1/4" to such a system?

Try this --

Nick clicks on the hot link and gets a page titled, "Trap T-250 Tactical Remote System". A brief video shows a big, large-caliber, machine-like rifle fired twice by remote control.

Nick recoils with the epiphany.

Needless to say, the viewer has to work for this info. The director's SOP of point 'em off with action is at work throughout the coffee shop scene. The tiny live chat lines at the bottom of Nick's laptop go by quickly, with distractions.

This is an action flick first, a message flick second.

Still, you don't know that the contractor-mercenaries are watching Nick's chat until some disconnected time later. But you do know that good-hearted FBI admin secretary, super-foxy Rhona Mitra, helps greenhorn Nick past many obstacles. The good-guy crew has a chance of winning this one.

SUB-PLOT TWO -- Justice
I don't think you understand.
These boys killed my dog.

Here's the beef. This is what it should cost predators in positions of trust who viciously and maliciously turn American patriots into murderers for oil and empire -- for greed-driven profits and corruption-driven power -- just before tossing the patriots into yesterday's stinky garbage. This is what should happen to dissembling predators whose corruption machines and cooperative cronies put them above the law while removing any possibility of their being criminally prosecuted for their heinous crimes against our Constitution and laws.

They should be brought to justice, by hook or by crook.

After the opening action in Ethiopia, and after our briefly reviewing Bob Lee's lifestyle 36 months later, the contractor-mercenary colonel is given a briefing on Bob Lee at Langley. Some high suit intros Bob Lee Swagger as "the best there is" -- a sort of White Feather hyperbole. (Several hundred world-class, long-range shooters chuckle and chat among themselves.)

Some low suit says, "His last assignment? Went wrong. Went into unfriendly territory on a loan-out and was left as expendable. ... The agency asset that left him to die? Suddenly removed from the face of the earth two weeks after. They never laid it at Bob Lee's feet. He retired a week later."

In case-hardened arrogance and short-sighted dismissiveness, the colonel from nowhere remarks that Bob Lee probably didn't agree that he was expendable.

No consideration of deep-core vigilante justice. No consideration of proscription in lieu of justice. Just chalk it up to surface revenge and trite indignation.

This from the colonel who flashes penetrating people-reading all over Bob Lee's character to explain why Bob-Lee is the perfect patriot patsy needed for the Archbishop's murder. The people-reading omits that patriot Bob Lee has a penchant for justice. It omits that, when the dust is down, all patriots have a penchant for justice.

But then, the mercenary arrogance includes the conviction that Bob Lee will be killed along with the Archbishop. Dead men wreak no justice.

Fast forward past the Archbishop's murder; Bob Lee's exciting escape; Donnie's super-foxy widow, Sara, medically saving Bob Lee's life and her help sucking Nick Memphis into Bob Lee's orbit; Bob Lee's cold-blooded come-back; greenhorn Nick Memphis' growth into a stand-up spotter and partner; and a glacier-top, gut-wrenching meeting with the colonel and his boss, the six-term Senator from Montana.

On the glacier, it's all about the insanities of money. Democracy, freedom, and justice -- all in the toilet.

The evidence against Bob Lee is his rifle -- supposedly used to kill the Archbishop. It's been in FBI custody since the Archbishop's murder.

In a post-glacier meeting in the US Attorney General's office, stand-up Nick Memphis slips Bob Lee a live round for his rifle, which is set up on a table. Bob Lee admits that it's his rifle, slips the live round into the chamber, points it at the colonel, and pulls the trigger.

Snap. No shot.

Bob Lee explains that before he left his mountain home, he switched out all of the firing pins in all of his rifles. It's his SOP. The wrong firing pins look like they'd do their jobs, but they won't. They're too short.

Bob Lee's innocence established, the colonel rants and raves his way out of the meeting. There's no evidence that can be used to charge and hold him.

The AG commiserates with Bob Lee and Nick Memphis. "But this is the world we live in. And justice does not always prevail. This is not the wild west, where you can clean up the streets with a gun -- even though sometimes that's exactly what's needed."

Obviously, the AG is making his speech to the wrong guy. Bob Lee, already the vigilante with advanced Force Recon skills, is exactly the man to clean up the streets with a gun.

Fade to the Montana Senator's mountain retreat. Senator and colonel booze back, admiring their work. A dead body drops from the second-story balcony, the colonel stands and takes two in the chest, a mercenary machine-gunning the floor is shot, the Senator's bean-pusher is shot, and then the Senator is shot.

Bob Lee lays the pistol that killed the Senator on the colonel's dead chest, unslings an M4 carbine to butt-stoke a natural gas pipe connection open and walks into the night as the posh hideaway blows up.

Donnie's widow, Sara, is waiting in a running-warm sedan, just down the snowy road.

Forensics will undoubtedly find a mercenaries attack on the Senator somehow gone wrong. Nothing to lay at Bob Lee's feet.

Gun-barrel justice. Overkill? Naaah.

The corruption machines are still up and running -- in the fiction's afterglow and in reality. Until the corruption machines are minimized, human weakness and greed will be like one hard-hearted Hannah right after another.


They say an hour spent with Hannah
Gazin' deep in your eyes,
Is like sittin' on the South Pole
For tellin' lies.
That's hard-hearted Hannah ...

They say an hour spent with Hanna
Nibblin on your neck,
Is like takin' green water
On the very top deck.
That's hard-hearted Hannah ...

They say an hour spent with Hannah
Hangin' on your arm,
Is like divin' under sea ice
To get warm.
That's hard-hearted Hannah ...

They say an hour spent with Hannah
Snugglin' on your chest,
Is like climbin' stark naked
On Mt. Everest.
That's hard hearted Hannah ...

They say an hour spent with Hannah
Sittin' on your lap,
Is like back-strokin' to Iceland
Without a map.
That's hard-hearted Hannah ...

They say an hour spent with Hannah
Clingin' real tight,
Is like losin' your ears
To frost bite.
That's hard-hearted Hannah ...


© 2008 by Stephen Neitzke


Post a Comment

<< Home