Or Nah? is a feature where we watch and review the first episode of a new TV show. We’ll let you know if it’s worth checking out. As always, these reviews are the opinion of the reviewer, but we’ll try to adequately explain why you should or shouldn’t give the show a chance and provide shows for comparison.
Developed by John Hlavin, from the book Point of Impact, by Stephen Hunter, and from the 2007 movie of the same name. | Starring: Ryan Phillippe, Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Omar Epps, Eddie McClintock, Tembi Locke, Shantel VanSanten | Network: USA. Tuesdays. Debut season.
Getting Shooter on to our television screens hasn’t been easy for the USA network. Originally scheduled to debut July 16th of this year, it was postponed in the aftermath of the July 7th Dallas shootings, and when further shootings took place later the same month in Baton Rouge, Shooter was pulled from the network’s schedule entirely. It’s only now that viewers are getting a chance to make up their minds about a new political conspiracy series, fresh on the heels of the Kiefer Sutherland starrer Designated Survivor.
What’s it about?
Bobby Lee Swagger has appeared in nine (and counting) novels written by Stephen Hunter. He’s a former U.S. Marine sniper, and at the start of the first book, Point of Impact (the title of the series’ premiere episode, too), he’s called out of retirement to investigate a threat against the president. Apparently the guy behind the threat is an old nemesis of Swagger’s, a Soviet sniper who shot and killed Bobby Lee’s friend and comrade Donny Fenn. Unable to resist the call of his country once more, Swagger finds himself in over his head when he’s framed for what he thinks is the president’s assassination. Needless to say, in conspiracy thrillers, there’s more going on than initially thought.
If all this sounds familiar, then you may have seen the 2007 movie, also called Shooter, which starred Mark Wahlberg as Swagger. It was pretty good, though I preferred the source material better. I’ve read four Swagger books and they’re top-class actioners, with plenty of character depth and firearm know-how (if you’re into that kind of thing).
The television series keeps the same premise, with Ryan Phillippe (Secrets & Lies) taking on the mantle of the All-American Hero. Playing alongside him are Omar Epps (House) as his former commanding officer now Secret Service agent, Isaac Johnson; Shantel VanSanten (The Flash) as Swagger’s wife Julie; Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Arrow) as FBI Agent Nadine Memphis (in the book and movie, this character was a man, Nick Memphis); and Eddie McClintock (recently of Supergirl) as another Secret Service agent, Jack Payne. The soviet sniper is now Chechen, because bad guys are always Chechen, right?
Swagger enjoys retirement by keeping low-life hunters away from wolves, spending quality time with his wife and young daughter, and keeping an eye out for unwanted visitors. When Johnson comes calling with a quandary regarding a probable threat against the president’s life, he offers his expertise. Using a Sherlock-like “mind palace” scenario, Swagger quickly works out how and when the sniper will take out the president. But then shit gets real, and Swagger soon stares down the barrel of a gun held by Agent Memphis.
It’s a solid series opener that packs plenty of info dumps into its 42-minute running time. We’re introduced to all the major players, and given enough backstory to maintain interest. We know where it’s going to end up, but Phillippe’s low-key charisma is a big selling point for Shooter. Though he has little to do in the action stakes – with the obvious exception of jumping over a balcony and landing on a parked car some floors below – you know he has the chops to pull off the role. Similarly, it’s always good to see Omar Epps getting some choice parts. Always playing second fiddle to Hugh Laurie’s Gregory House (everybody did in that show), he was great in Resurrection. Knowing as I do how his character works out in the long run, I will be interested to see how Epps plays against type. Cynthia Addai-Robinson’s role is an important one, too. We see enough of her in the premiere to get the feeling that she’ll be a great sparring partner for Phillippe. Eddie McClintock is going to be a bad guy; you just know it.
What’s not to like about it?
Kiefer Sutherland has a lot to answer for. 24 set the standard for action-packed political thrillers with intelligence, nuance, and emotional content. But has that genre seen its day come and gone? Shooter was pulled from the schedules for a very good reason. And that reason hasn’t gone away. Gun-related violence is a daily and worrying feature on all the news and media networks. While I’m not suggesting that we shy away from such a horrendous topic, maybe it’s time the issue is addressed with more thought and less exploitation. Perhaps Shooter, if it is given the chance, will go down this path. But because I’m familiar with the story, I don’t think it will. And anyway, this kind of show has been done before.
Shooter’s premiere is serviceable enough. It has a fast-paced plot, plenty of intrigue, some blood and brain splatter, and Ryan Phillippe in good form. I will probably watch for a couple more episodes to see if they do anything interesting with the premise, something that the original book and movie hasn’t addressed.
Watch this if you like: 24, Designated Survivor, The Fugitive, Quantico
Shooter S1E1 = 6.9/10