Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Shooter/Point of Impact

Saw Shooter recently -- you remember, the Mark Wahlberg film based on Stephen Hunter's Point of Impact?

Turned out to be an okayish action film. Obviously wants to set itself up as a franchise to rival Matt Damon's Bourne series. Does its best to emulate the more realistic lowkey action style of the Bourne flicks but can't resist turning every explosion into a gigantic Hollywood fireball -- "He only threw a hand grenade; should it have been able to destroy half a continent?"

Various changes had been made to the plot and afterwards I amused myself by trying to figure out which changes had been made in order to streamline the plot into a 2 hour film and which had been necessitated by the changes they had already made -- "We've got to keep that great setpiece but we've already written out the main character for that scene due to pacing reasons, which of the remaining characters can we use to replace them?"

The hero's sidekick Nick Memphis benefits from this streamlining insofar that he is less bumbling than his counterpart in the novel. On the downside he loses the tragic backstory that shows beneath his dithery exterior he possesses balls of steel.

On a more worrying note the potential franchise may have shot itself in the foot by excising a lot of material from POI that comes into play in the later novels. Either they're not planning to be too faithful to the novels or they're hoping cinema audiences have the attention span of an amnesiac goldfish.

The politics angle of the story had been brought to the fore which I think was largely so the director could push his political agenda -- apparently the people who sponsor and carry out assassinations and other black ops aren't very nice and shouldn't be trusted. Yes, I was shocked by this revelation too.

And being a Hollywood action film they couldn't end with the courtroom drama that concluded the novel, they had to tag on another action scene just so they could end on a bang. Which kind of backfired on them as the finale was pretty dull. Plus I'm not entirley sure but I suspect the loose ends they left to be tied up by the final shooutout actually made nonsense of the hero's actions at the end of the previous action scene.

On top of this the film made Bob Lee Swagger more brutal than in the novel. In Hunter's version he has to be coaxed back into killing, in the film he pretty much revels in it from the word go. At the end of the novel it is pointed out that during the course of this little adventure he only killed in self defence, in the film he is turned into judge, jury and executioner.

And now for the really petty irritations:

Everyone refers to Bob as Bob Lee even though it is specifically stated in POI that he doesn't like that.

No one refers to Bob by his sniper nickname, Bob the Nailer. Although to be fair in the film he's a super-secret black ops sniper not a 'Nam vet so he's not supposed to have a famous nickname.

Bob never gets to use his sniping catchphrase, "Time to hunt."

They didn't use my favourite line of dialogue from the novel where, upon learning how many kills Bob can rack up in a single mission, one of the villains comments, "Cocksucker can shoot a little."

Anyway, even though I didn't think the film was as good as the book you're probably better of watching the film first. The friend I saw the film with thought it was okay but he hadn't read the book so he didn't have anything to compare it to. So yeah, watch the film and if you like it read the book afterwards. Unless of course you have a burning desire to read Hunter's prose wihtout it being filtered through the memory of Hollywood's halfhearted adap.

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