When thriller writer Stephen Hunter first dug up the notion of master sniper Bob Lee Swagger, I betcha he didn't have Mark Wahlberg or Ryan Phillippe in mind to play "the Nailer." I saw the Wahlberg adaptation some years ago, and I remember my reaction as being either lukewarm or cold. I prefer the Ryan Phillippe version, maybe because having ten episodes this first season allows the character to build and percolate further.
Just like Wahlberg's version, this Shooter adapts Hunter's novel, Point of Impact. It then expands on it. A modern upgrade rejiggers our guy from a weathered 1960's Vietnam vet to a marine who served three harrowing tours in Afghanistan. For those in the dark, Marine Gunnery Sgt. Bob Lee Swagger is a decorated sniper whose official reported kill count is 210, except those in the trenches estimate the true count closer to 390. For his trouble, Swagger scored a titanium hip.
Still, the hip doesn't much impact him. He's still outdoorsy, still communes with nature and protects wildlife from them weekend baggers. He still practices his marksmanship. He hasn't lost his touch.
Maybe it's why an old friend drops in for a visit. His old marine captain (Omar Epps), now a suit in the Secret Service, alerts him to a potential threat to assassinate the President in Seattle. What's required of Bob Lee is a complete work-up regarding distances and potential shoot sites and such. Bob Lee shouldn't have played along.
Next thing, Bob Lee is on the run, framed for a long-distance kill shot. A multi-agency task force is mobilized to hunt him down. The evidence against him is overwhelming, especially since it's evidence based on the "footprints" he left while earlier casing the scene. Now, Bob Lee is a self-sufficient hombre. It would've been a cinch for him to vanish if not for his one glaring weakness. He loves his family.
If you'd been sleeping on the USA network, just know that, for years now, it's been rolling out a string of very watchable shows, from Monk to Psych to Burn Notice to White Collar to Suits to Royal Pains to Mr. Robot to Shooter. But enough promo. To me, Shooter was a pleasant surprise. I went in with the mindset of "I want to give it a chance, but I dunno if I'll like it." What sells it to me is Bob Lee's relationship with his wife (Shantel VanSanten) and his six-year-old daughter (Lexy Kolker), and also the professionalism and mutual respect shown in the sudden partnership that develops between Bob Lee and a semi-disgraced FBI agent (Cynthia Addai-Robinson). That FBI agent is Nadine Memphis (changed from Nick Memphis in the book). Agent Memphis is prone to wild theories and disobeying orders. She's still trying to live down having accidentally shot and killed a hostage. But maybe a maverick FBI chick is just what Bob Lee needs most to clear his name.
A cute thing: It's amusing to me that Bob Lee's bedtime stories to his little girl consist of anecdotes of his black ops missions - and that his little girl eats that sh-- up.
In ten episodes, see Swagger run for his life and unravel a conspiracy. See him take the fight to no less than five prominent baddies and their assorted hired guns. It's neat to see Eddie McClintock - of Warehouse 13 fame - discard his goofy side to play a darker role. Suddenly, he's fun to root against.
You can tell Phillippe went thru some legit sniper training, because he looks like he knows what he's doing when he's handling his arsenal of weapons. It's apropos that Bob Lee seems only so-so with hand-to-hand combat, never mind that Phillippe supposedly has an extensive background in martial arts. But Bob Lee's forte is in snipering. Me not being a sniper, I dunno how much more the show could've put in when it comes to the minutiae of long distance marksmanship. We get passing mention of relevant elements such as wind speed, elevation, drop, range, etc. And, occassionally, we're treated to these equations that float onscreen that I guess Bob Lee was formulating as he sized up a target.
Is it up in the air whether Shooter will get a third season? Who knows? I think it's worth renewing. Bob the Nailer is a solid protagonist who doesn't talk much. He reminds me not so much of Clint Eastwood - because Phillippe doesn't convey that kind of weight onscreen - but of someone like, say, Clint Walker or Audie Murphy. Phillippe portrays Bob Lee as someone who is incredibly resolute and quietly capable, never mind that, for someone who's supposed to be a ghost with a knack for blending in, his way of blending in is to put on a baseball hat and wear sunglasses indoors, like, every time. C'mon, Bob Lee, you're better than that.