Betrayed by Uncle Sam both at home and abroad, former Marine sniper Bob Lee Swagger (a suitably gruff Mark Wahlberg) starts to seem like the last honest exponent of old-fashioned American virtue as he tries to untangle the governmental conspiracy that has framed him for a botched presidential assassination attempt. The feature-length cat-and-mouse game that follows is nimbly executed by director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day), who's grown immeasurably more confident as a director since making his debut with the slapdash Chow Yun-Fat vehicle The Replacement Killers. He isn't a virtuoso stylist, but he shoots enjoyably lean, efficient action scenes, and the entire movie exudes a refreshingly low-tech vibe that's of a piece with the resourcefulness of its protagonist. Wittily adapted by screenwriter Jonathan Lemkin (The Devil's Advocate) from the Stephen Hunter novel, Shooter is a generically titled studio action picture that turns out to be a surprisingly deft satire about Americans' loss of faith in their government following the 2000 election, the 9/11 attacks, and the ensuing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The more Swagger digs, the more he sees that oil money really does make the world go round and that, in the words of the movie's fat-cat, red-state senator (a wonderfully smarmy Ned Beatty), there are no heroes and villains, Democrats and Republicans—only haves and have-nots.
Wahlberg briefly trades his rifle for Kate Mara.
Opens at Metro and other theaters, Fri., March 23. Rated R. 126 minutes.