Paramount commemorates 15 years for Antoine Fuqua’s “Shooter” with a first-time 4K UHD limited-edition steelbook.

It’s fair to say that by 2007 Mark Wahlberg had established himself beyond the musician that captivated audiences with his good vibrations. He’d terrified us as obsessive boyfriend David McCall (Fear), dazzled us as a big bright shining star as Dirk Diggler (Boogie Nights), showed us layers as complex hit-man (The Big Hit), made us worry for his survival as a greedy solider who never loses his valor (Three Kings), explored the existential as fireman Tommy Corn (I ♥ Huckabees), and proved that no one messes with the Mercer boys (Four Brothers). With each project, Wahlberg never found himself pinned down to a genre or director, making it clear that he’s more interested in character-based performances than in doing the same thing over and over. This isn’t to imply that that the actor doesn’t have areas of strengths (comedy is certainly easy for him), but performances that allow him to play stoic badasses typically land with audiences. Celebrating his 15th anniversary is one of Wahlberg’s great characters, Bob Lee Swagger in Shooter, the Antoine Fuqua-directed Stephen Hunter adaptation that found Wahlberg playing a character framed for murder and running from a government-based conspiracy. The dramatic action thriller scored well with audiences and may find new life once more thanks to a first-time 4K UHD remaster from Paramount Pictures.

One of the best snipers in the modern military, Bob Lee Swagger (Wahlberg) leaves the military after a mission in Africa goes sideways resulting in the death of his friend and spotter Donnie Feen (Lane Garrison). Three years later, living in isolation in the Rocky Mountains, Swagger is approached by U.S. Army Colonel Isaac Johnson (Danny Glover) to help stop an assassination plot against the president. Having his sense of duty invoked, Swagger reluctantly accepts and, in so doing, sets himself up to be the patsy when it’s not the American president who is shot, but a foreign dignitary. On the run from all forms of law enforcement, Swagger uses every bit of his training to uncover the plot and get his life back.

As a word of caution, since the film is 15 years old, what follows will include details on the narrative where necessary to discuss the remaster.

Shooter 1

Mark Wahlberg as Bob Lee Swagger in SHOOTER. Image not representative of 4K remaster.

Even 15 years later, Shooter is a solid thriller executed by a cast willing to take it seriously and a director (The Replacement Killers (1998); Training Day (2001); King Arthur (2004)) capable of delivering solid action sequences that serve the narrative well. While one might be willing to put a lot of the success of Shooter on the source material, Hunter’s “Point of Impact,” screenwriter Jonathan Lemkin (The Devil’s Advocate) made a lot of adjustments in translating it for the silver screen, so there was no reason to presume that the intensity of the novel would or could be replicated. And yet, what we receive, is a well-paced, smartly executed narrative that starts small, focused solely on Swagger, before opening up for more characters to join in roles significant (Michael Peña’s FBI Agent Nick Memphis) and small (Rhona Mitra’s Alourdes Gallindo). With this approach, the audience can get invested in Swagger, can believe in his capabilities, as well as understand the principles at the heart of the conspiracy (Glover’s Johnson, Elias Koteas’s Jack Payne, and Rade Serbedzija’s Michael Sandor). In recent years, thrillers like this one would have introduced Memphis much sooner, juxtaposing his recent graduation from the academy and posting to Philadelphia against Swagger’s recruitment. Instead, we meet Memphis in one of a series of setup shots establishing the security perimeter around the president. If you didn’t recognize the actor, it would literally feel like any other establishing shot, which is part of what makes it brilliant: Swagger meeting Memphis is purely incidental. There’re many moments throughout Shooter which help the audience stay invested, from the framing of Swagger, the way in which he evades the federal dragnet, and how he goes on the hunt for the truth. If there’s a single thing that bothers me about the film (and it has for years), it’s the implied sexual assault of Feen’s widow, Sarah (Kate Mara), by Payne when Johnson discovers that Swagger made contact with her and decides to use her to get to him. I can’t confirm if this is a plotline taken from the novel and it’s only implied that it occurs, but it never sat right with me as it does little to move the plot forward and feels like placing violence upon a woman just because. With so much thoughtful and organized violence enacted by the villains of the film, the degrading of Sarah diminishes any perceived moral high ground they might have. Not to mention it’s just a horrible trope and the kidnapped and torture of Sarah is reason enough to want Payne dead. (Which he does become and it’s *gloriously* executed.) By the way, I think the only Wahlberg scene that gets close to the pure machismo of Bobby Mercer taking the long walk across some Chicago ice is the planning and execution of just about every sniper scene in Shooter. Just electric.

But what about the 4K UHD remaster?

According to IMDB, Fuqua shot on film, which means that the remaster was already leagues ahead of current 4Ks as films shot on digital are more upscaled than converted. By using a negative, which is capable of holding a great deal of information on its own, the 4K release can look more natural in its finished form and less digitally enhanced. There’re two scenes where the HDR is particularly strong in demonstrating the difference in quality: the scene with Swagger talking with Sandor and the meeting in the snow-covered mountains. In the first, the details on Sandor’s face are immaculate. You can clearly see the lines on his face, able to note the natural grease and grime that comes from stress. The scene is part of an intense infiltration sequence, yet the colors are a lovely natural mix, so that little details enhance a heightened moment, offering an aura of feasibility against the conspiracy Sandor exposition dumps onto Swagger. Later, in the confrontation/rescue of Sara in the mountains, the white of the snow and ice is pristine but doesn’t shine so bright as to blind; rather, it offers a clean palate for the red of blood to spread against. There’s no remastered audio to go along with the new visuals, but what we get is at least clean and balanced enough to be enjoyable.

If what you’re into is the steelbook itself, the design is fairly minimal and in keeping with the style of the film. The outside is mostly gun metal with Swagger on the front cover, gun in hand and slightly armored. The back features the quote “I didn’t start it but I mean to see it through” with fiery embers inside the text and floating over the image of Swagger. The inside of the steelbook merely features more fiery embers across a black backdrop, likely taken from the end of the film when Swagger destroys the cabin occupied by all the players who took part in his framing and were still alive. As mentioned, the design is very simple, but is effectively tied to memorable aspects of the film.

For fans of the film, there are two major downsides to this anniversary release. The first is that it includes nothing but legacy special features. So if you already owned this film in a previous format, you’ve had access to the two featurettes, seven deleted scenes, and theatrical trailer. It’s a shame that a commentary track or behind the scenes look couldn’t have been developed in honor of the anniversary. The other piece that may hinder some folks from purchasing the release is that it’s 4K UHD and digital only in the package. 4K UHD is a popular format with more and more viewers upgrading their home theaters to play audio and video in the enhanced high-definition format. But it’s not the largest segment in the market, so even while steelbook designs have become their own collector’s market, the lack of a Blu-ray may be the reason some don’t pick it up. There’ve been a few Paramount releases of late, the 4K UHD releases for Scream (1996 & 2022), Escape from L.A. (1996), and Infinite (2021) are the first to come to mind, that only include the 4K UHD disc and digital code, so this isn’t unusual. It just may be the deciding factor or whether or not to snag the anniversary limited-edition.

Swagger went into his situation blinded by duty, so let’s not make the same mistake and let’s be sure to consider all the positions.

If you already own Shooter on Blu-ray, there’s little reason to snag the 4K UHD steelbook *unless* you’re a collector or you prefer new remasters. Visually, it’ll feel worth owning and the steelbook is a nice design. That it only comes with a digital copy may frustrate physical format fans who want the steelbook but either don’t have a 4K set-up or don’t have one in every room of their home (myself included). The lack of new bonus features is also a mark in the negative column. That said, if all you really want is a 4K UHD remaster and that’s enough to make the purchase, then you won’t be disappointed.

Shooter Previously Released Special Features:

  • Survival of the Fittest: The Making of Shooter
  • Independence Hall
  • Seven (7) Deleted Scenes

Available on limited-edition 4K UHD steelbook March 15th, 2022.

For more information, head to Paramount Pictures’ official Shooter webpage.


Categories: Films To Watch, Home Release, Recommendation

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