I just finished watching the last episode of the first season of Shooter starring Ryan Phillippe.
This incarnation of the beginning of the Bob Lee Swagger series is very loosely based on the Movie of the same name which was loosely based on the novel Point of Impact written by Stephen Hunter.
I am an avid fan of the Swagger family (there is also a series of books about Bob’s father, Earl Lee Swagger) and though the series was good and entertaining, here is what they fucked up.
In my opinion, they should not have named the show Shooter nor named the main character Bob “the Nailer” Lee Swagger.
It is not because I disliked the show, the show was actually pretty snazztastic, it is because outside of the base plotline (which has been done several times among movies so renaming it is not outside the realm of possibility) it is nothing like the book.
Now, the original Bob Lee was a sniper in Vietnam, and I realize they have to modernize it, so that is not really an issue unless they ever decide to make an Earl Lee Swagger series because Earl Lee won the Medal of Honor in WWII in the Pacific, specifically Iwo Jima.
If you have ever watched the movie, Shooter, starring Mark Wahlberg and the person I wish to be the mother of my ugly children, Kate Mara, then you already know the plotline.
Seriously, Kate, I cuddle. I did have someone who could verify my awesomeosity but she left this mortal coil… so you just have to take my word for it.
For those of you who do not live the way of the gun and take in quality projectile movies, the basic plot is:
Bob Lee, who has become a drunk hermit after his best friend and spotter Donny Fenn was killed on a mission, is contacted by the government because they have a rumor that someone is going to assassinate the president.
The feds want Bob to figure out how he would do it in order to find the shooter.
In the original book, they said that the killer he is trying to find was the same one who killed Donny and forced Bob Lee out of the Marines by shooting him in the hip.
Bob reluctantly agrees and goes about doing his task, little does Bob Lee know that he is actually doing the research for the shooter and at the same time framing himself.
But the target isn’t actually the president, it is a dignitary standing next to the president.
The easiest way to use misdirection in an assassination is to shoot them next to the President of the United States, everyone just assumes you missed.
The plan was to kill Bob Lee as he was trying to help and plant one of his rifles at the scene because they found an interesting way of mocking up bullets to match the rifling. Unfortunately for them, Bob is not easy to kill.
They did plug him a couple times, and he ended up looking for help with Donny’s widow Julie Fenn (in the book and series) Sarah Fenn (in the movie) (Kate Mara), a woman he had never met but one he had kept in contact with by sending her flowers every year on the anniversary of Donny’s death.
With the help of Julie/Sarah and the only FBI agent who believes Swagger is innocent, Nick Memphis, they go about not only trying to prove that Bob did not take the shot but take down the ones who did as well.
They succeed, Nick becomes Bob’s friend, and Julie/Sarah becomes Bob’s wife though this is not shown in the movie.
There were only a couple of issues I had with the movie when compared to the book.
Sam, the dog in the film, was Sam Vincent, lawyer and a father figure to Bob in the book.
Bob Lee’s dad died when Bob was young as the result of a shootout and Sam was Earl lee Swagger’s lifelong friend.
Nick Memphis was an FBI sharpshooter in the book, he had made a mistake and killed an innocent person during a hostage situation, I believe, which is why he was on shit duty when the assassination happened, this was never mentioned in the cinematic version. In the film, they played him off as a Rookie.
The Black King rifles were not mentioned in the movie.
These rifles are supposed to be miracles of modern riflery and are among the only rifles in the world that could make shots needed to assassinate the dignitary from such extreme distances.
The shooter in the film was a Russian rather than Lon Scott who had a part in both the book and the series, I did not mind this terribly because he was played by Boris the Bullet Dodger (Boris the Blade, Boris the Sneaky Fucking Russian) (Rade Serbedzija) and I generally like him as an actor, but it didn’t follow the book.
Technically, it was a Russian in the book but that wasn’t known until later, I believe in the book Lon Scott was the villain, in another book it turns out a Russian killed Donny in a pre-meditated fashion and eventually tried to kill Julie Fenn-Swagger.
Off the top of my head, those are the only issues I had with the movie, compared to the book.
I read it in 2005, suck it.
Now, here are the myriad issues I have with what was a great series but had fuck all in common with the book Point of Impact.
Now I do not remember everything about the book, but there were several glaring issues, and some that I think are issues, but I am only about 80%, so let us start with the 100% problems.
Locations: Bob Lee Swagger grew up in Blue Eye (fake town), Polk County, Arkansas. Bob Lee Swagger still lived in Arkansas when he was recruited for this mission. Not Washington / Seattle.
Companionship: In the series, Bob Lee is married and has a daughter, married to who was supposed to be Donny’s wife who played a decent sized part in helping Bob Lee out. The only companionship Bob Lee had in the book was his guns and Sam Vincent. Bob Lee did eventually have a daughter with Donny’s wife named Nikki (Mary in the series), but it was after this adventure. They made Donny’s mom the Point of Contact in Donny’s life, and she played a very insignificant role.
Recruitment: In this series, Bob is recruited and plotted against by his former Captain (Omar Epps). I believe the book and the movie were the same in having a congressman’s lackey (played by Danny Glover) doing the recruiting and the congressman being the head of this particular snake… as it were. In the televisual feast, the guy who is somewhat calling the shots is a CIA prick played very well by Tom Sizemore.
Tom Sizemore’s part isn’t the head of the Snake, though, there are several more layers of corruption after him. Russian FSB, NSA, a Private Security Company, loads of entities pulling the strings of Tom Sizemore, Eddie McClintock and Omar Epps (all of whom I was happy to see cast in this, though I don’t like seeing Eddie McClintock playing the villain much… I am used to him being the happy, goofy member of the Warehouse 13 team.
Nick Memphis is traded in for Nadine Memphis in the series which is fine because Cynthia Addai-Robinson is MUCH easier on the eyes than Michael Peña although in general, I am a pretty big Peña fan. She does a pretty fantastic job as Nadine Memphis, though. Happily, they also brought back the storyline that she was a sharpshooter that made a mistake.
The biggest issue I had with this series was that they changed Bob Lee Swagger from being a lost loner who was a patriot at heart to this family man who had barely a care in the world.
I much prefer the redemption of Bob Lee Swagger in the book, and I feel that if the producers changed the character’s names and the title, it would have still held up as a series but would not be driving stakes through the heart of Mr. Hunter’s fantastic work.
I will end this by picking apart a few things that annoyed me that have no bearing on the book or anything Swagger related but rather based in a reality that most in the People’s Republic of Commiefornia would not understand, which is why, I assume, they got these things wrong.
In the opening scene, Bob Lee is tucked up behind his rifle looking at a wolf that is caught in a trap.
Bob shoots the chain holding the trap, tracks the wolf, tranquilizes it and takes the trap off.
In the desperation to start the show with putting Bob behind the rifle, they did not consider that Bob Lee Swagger should have some common sense. Bob would have tranqed the wolf while it was held in place by the trap and done the job without letting the wolf get away with a trap still cutting grooves in its leg, thus making the whole ordeal easier on the both of them.
Ok, this scene holds a couple of annoyances.
Bob tracks the wolf, tranqs it and takes off the trap and injects the wolf with what I assume are antibiotics to keep the wolf from getting an infection.
Here is where the hunters come into the scene.
The avid outdoor orthodontist and his partner get into a veritable battle of wits with Bob over how the wolf is and isn’t theirs. Bob takes the rifle away from one of them, looks the weapon over states that it is a .223 and says the dude from Walmart who sold it to them should have told them that .223 is a round that is not big enough for anything larger than a squirrel.
For those of you who do not know weapons and ammo, Bob Lee is correct, .223 is a small round and does not have a lot of knockdown power like say the 7.62×39 which is the round you would fire from an AK-47. What he is incorrect about is the size of creature this round will drop.
You see, .223 ammunition is the civilian equivalent of the 5.56×45 ammo that the United States Military and many other armies the world over use in their primary infantry weapons.
So Bob stating that a squirrel was the biggest game for a .223 was not only an untruth but an easily verified lie.
One thing I love about Stephen Hunter’s books is how meticulous he is about the guns, their accuracy, and their takedown power so this disappointed me very much.
The second thing to pick apart was when Bob Lee was working on figuring out how the shooter would be trying to assassinate the president.
They corrupt bastards who Bob was trying to figure all this stuff out for had found the exact rifle the shooter was going to be using because a drone happened to capture a picture of him. They then told Bob that they recreated it down to the same scope the shooter was going to be using and were going to let Bob use it to see where the shooter could be making the shot from.
The rifle was a high speed, low drag .338 Lapua Magnum, note the bullet size compared to the .308 Winchester/7.62×51 and the .300Winchester Magnum.
I personally own a .308 and a .300WM.
My .308 does not have a muzzle break on it so the recoil on it can be pretty bad, you certainly would not want to spend all day shooting it although it is fun for a while.
My .300WM is not only a much heavier rifle but it does have a muzzle break, but even with that, when shooting it, you certainly know it is there, and you will end up with a sore shoulder after a while. If it did not have a muzzle break, it probably would not be very enjoyable to shoot.
Both of these rounds are smaller than the .338LM. My reason for explaining all of this is that, though Bob Lee Swagger is a FAR better shooter than I would ever be, his exceptional skill would not negate the recoil of the rifle he was shooting.
The .338 Bob was shooting had the recoil of mashed potatoes, as in, none.
It annoyed me but watch the show, it was good.
Chop’s Guide Score based on the show by itself 4/5
Chop’s Guide Score based on accuracy with the story 2/5