The first thought that comes to your mind when seeing the title of this show is, “Wasn’t Shooter a movie with Mark Wahlberg?” The answer to that is—yes. The show is based on the movie, and it mirrors the same plot and characters. Ryan Phillippe plays sharpshooter Bob Lee Swagger, the same character Wahlberg played in the 2007 movie version. So fans of the movie should have a special interest in the USA Network show, especially since Wahlberg is actually the executive producer of this show.
The show starts with a voiceover from Swagger explaining how a bullet kills. Next we see Swagger in the bushes aiming a rifle at a wolf. Some hunters come around and threaten him, so he gives them a lecture on illegally hunting animals and proceeds to take them out with a few quick moves.
Swagger seems like a regular guy living an everyday life in a secluded coastal town with a wife and young daughter. Isaac Johnson (Omar Epps) decides to pay Swagger a visit with some news that a CIA agent was assassinated. Swagger attempts to rationalize the logistics of it, but Johnson reveals that he didn’t come with news of the agent assassination: he’s there to notify him that the president is in danger of being killed. This is a recruitment visit.
Swagger’s backstory starts getting revealed when he tells his wife of a mission at war. Flashbacks of him on that mission are shown. In the story, Swagger gets shot in the leg, while his partner Donnie gets killed. Swagger holds blame for trusting his gut and getting his friend killed by a Chechen sniper. This is the same sniper that is now a threat to the president. Things are coming full circle.
Any more convincing from Johnson wasn’t needed. Swagger is in and seeking to avenge past mistakes. The legend of Swagger is explained. Fifty-one kills of the Taliban over the course of two days. That’s why he’s the man for the job. The gun and shooting jargon is actually explained on screen with stats and descriptions. The lack of action is the best and worst thing about the show. It’s kinda dull at times, but also refreshing how methodical the show is, and how it doesn’t need to sell itself on high-impact action. It’s about a sniper, not an action star. So watching Phillippe shooting pumpkins is the action you get. For some, that will be a major detriment, but to others it might feel more realistic and honest to the character and his story.
Cynthia Addai-Robinson plays the inquisitive and ambitious FBI agent Nadine Memphis. It’s a character that reminded me of her recent work in The Accountant, a role which suited her well. She will add a lot to this show. One of my favorite parts was Swagger explaining how the shooter will plan to assassinate the president. The intricate breakdown is compelling. Phillippe really sells it. It legitimately seems like he knows what he’s talking about.
The meeting between the Ukrainian and American presidents is about to occur. The limos arrive and Swagger realizes he’s made a mistake. He runs and runs to stop the shooter, arrives in the presumed location only to see on TV the killing of the president. A cop enters the hotel room and immediately assumes Swagger was the shooter. Swagger jumps off the balcony and onto a car, stumbles off it right in front of Memphis who is ready to shoot at him. So that was a nice cliffhanger to end the first episode with. What do we know? The president has been shot. Mr. Perfect (not the wrestler, but Swagger) messed up big time. Swagger will be the culprit on the run.
The show starts out really slow and carries over till nearly the end of the episode. Phillippe is a natural fit to play Swagger. I like Phillippe as an actor; he seems pretty underrated, but always delivers a solid performance. He’s surrounded by a talented and experienced cast. The story seems like a better fit on television than it was a movie. This is a smart show that requires patience. I liked the look of the locales. The crisp nature scene locations are mixed with some more rugged locations (war flashbacks). The setting plays nicely with the character’s persona. Swagger is definitely the kind of guy who would live in quiet isolation.
The pilot was intriguing, but didn’t sell the show like it should have. The promise of what’s to come in later episodes is a lot more appealing than what was presented in the premiere. Due to the slow and drawn out nature of the show, it will take some patience to digest it. Giving this show another chance might be the best bet to enjoy it in the long run. I’ll look at the bigger picture approach and give this show a slightly above average and barely passable rating in what I saw and in hopes of what is being set-up going forward. Hopefully it ends up proving me right in the long run.