Home > Reviews > SHOOTER – Mark Mancina

SHOOTER – Mark Mancina

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

A tense thriller from director Antoine Fuqua, Shooter stars Mark Wahlberg as former Special Ops sniper Bob Swagger, who is called out of his self-imposed retirement by his former boss (Danny Glover), who tells him they have learned of a plot to assassinate the President of the United States. With a mission to track down the suspects before they can carry out their plan, Swagger heads to Washington DC; however, before long, Swagger finds himself wrongfully accused of plotting to kill the President himself. On the run, and unsure of who to trust, Swagger must flush out the real suspects in order to clear his name. By all accounts it’s a return to form for the director of Training Day and Tears of the Sun, following the critical mess of King Arthur, and features a strong lead performance by Wahlberg alongside notable support from the likes of Glover, Elisa Koteas, Michael Pena, Kate Mara, Rade Serbedzija and Ned Beatty.

Shooter also marks the return to the mainstream of composer Mark Mancina. As a member of Hans Zimmer’s Media Ventures organization in its early years, Mancina was one of the first composers to break away and make a name for himself in his own right; scores for films like Speed, Twister, Bad Boys and Con Air established him as one of the most successful action composers of the 1990s, but his recent output has been lean at best – Shooter is the first Mancina-scored movie to crack the Top 10 at the US Box Office since The Haunted Mansion in late 2003.

Unfortunately, however, Shooter is unlikely to be a score which heralds a new era of Mancina at the movies. As befits the film, Shooter is a dark, nervous, understated action score, written for a full orchestra and augmented by synths, but which relies on bubbling rhythmic underscore for the majority of its running time. The “Main Titles” are indicative of the entire score, featuring low, rumbling orchestral lines overlaid by various in-vogue electronic textures, including some which mimic vocal effects, and the moody whirr of electric guitars. Much of the score proceeds like this: “Swagger Visits Target Sites”, “Swagger Cuts the Power/Memphis in Church”, “Swagger Finds Sara” are content to simply rumble along, adding texture to the sound mix within the film, but doing very little of note when heard independently.

“Swagger Contemplates” and “Sarah & Swagger” are a little lighter, the latter containing a lovely George Doering guitar solo; “Recon Report/Motorcade” and “Brothers in Arms” are a little more patriotic and exciting; “Assassination” contains some intriguing moments of dissonance and driving action, and “Meeting in the Mountains” has a palpable sense of energy and urgency which lifts it above and beyond most everything else on the album. The second half of the cue, where the orchestral forces rise to the forefront of the mix, is especially noteworthy. The finale, “Revenge”, brings the grungy sound of the electric guitar to the fore, echoing Trevor Rabin’s contributions to Con Air a decade ago. Once in a while a couple of pseudo-ethnic touches which can be heard deep down in the mix, including something which sounds like a breath-flute or an aboriginal didgeridoo, a variation on a tinkling cimbalom, and glassy-sounding tinkling bowls, but more often than not these are seemingly used merely to give the score an interesting musical color and not for any particular dramatic reason.

The single most frustrating thing about Shooter, though, is the fact that it never properly develops its ideas. Half way through a cue, Mancina will suddenly let rip with a scintillating action riff or percussion ostinato which piques the interest and makes the listener sit up – but then, 25 seconds later, it’s gone, never to return. This happens a half dozen or more times during the course of the score, resulting in a score which is less appreciated for what it is, and more lamented for what it could have been.

In many ways, Shooter is also a perfect example of a worrying recent trend in TV music, which is now clearly bleeding through to cinema screens. The music in Shooter is almost identical to the music Sean Callery writes for 24, John Keane writes for CSI, Robert Duncan writes for The Unit, and Ramin Djawadi writes for Prison Break. It’s scoring straight out of the “music-as-sound-effects” school of thought, written simply to accompany the action rather than to add to the effect of it, and it’s everywhere. It may work well enough on television, where memorable themes and distinctive underscore seem to be the sole domain of Michael Giacchino these days, but one usually expects a little more innovation in movie action scoring. Of course, the music has to remain appropriate for its subject matter, but when action scoring for high profile films such as Shooter is this bland, it makes one wonder where all the creativity has gone. Hopefully, Mancina’s next project will be better.

Rating: **½

Track Listing:

  • Shooter Main Titles (2:24)
  • Swagger Contemplates (1:04)
  • Swagger Visits Target Sites (2:52)
  • Swagger Cuts the Power/Memphis in Church (3:02)
  • River Barge Escape (2:54)
  • Infiltrating the Cabin (3:25)
  • Recon Report/Motorcade (3:39)
  • Swagger Finds Sarah (2:01)
  • Meeting in the Mountains (8:16)
  • Assassination (5:55)
  • Memphis’ Theory (1:47)
  • Brothers in Arms (5:42)
  • Sarah & Swagger (1:34)
  • Shootout in Virginia (4:53)
  • Revenge (4:10)
  • Nasty Letter (written and performed by Otis Taylor) (5:05)

Running Time: 58 minutes 43 seconds

Lakeshore LKS-339152 (2007)

Music composed by Mark Mancina. Conducted by Don Harper. Orchestrations by Dave Metzger. Recorded and mixed by Steve Kempster. Edited by Mike Flicker, Matt Friedman and Bryon Rickerson. Album produced by Mark Mancina.

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