15 November 2016 | A_Different_Drummer
Re-imagining the Re-Imagining
I "get" that it is a time-honored tradition on IMDb that the first reviewers of any new series are usually fans in the making who have fallen in love with the show and want to sound the trumpet for others to follow.
This is not one of those reviews.
What this IS is a review that will tell you what the show was trying to do and why, in the opinion of this reviewer, it is not succeeding as well as intended.
First, let's start with the REAL backstory.
1. A top-tier fiction writer named Stephen Hunter over a long period of years penned a series of books about a character he created, one Bob Lee Swagger, a tall rangy ex-Gunnery Sergeant with a deep southern drawl, probably one of the greatest snipers on the planet, and a true American hero. (Some of the book reviews called Swagger "the greatest" American hero in modern fiction.)
2. The character was a surprise smash hit, much like the Bourne character in the popular series of movies was equally a "surprise" to his original creator.
3. Hunter was so overpowered by the strong response to Bob Lee that he actually tried to hobble his character through the series of later novels (Bob aged quickly, he was wounded, beaten, crippled, etc.). Hunter even tried to phase Bob Lee out completely and start a brand new series based on Bob Lee's son. None of that worked. His fans to this day still cannot get enough of Bob Lee. He is, and will always be, a wonderful read.
4. Hollywood came knocking but found the character as written did not fit their "star mould." So Hollywood re-imagined the core story (from the first book in the series) with Bob Lee as a much younger, shorter, big city type hero, no accent, and cast Mark Wahlberg in the lead. The movie was a mild commercial success but fans of the original hated it and believed it could have been so much better if the original template had been followed.
5. This new TV series re-imagines the already-reimagined character from the Hollywood version. Now Bob Lee is very young and graceful, already married (not so in the book) and, as portrayed by Ryan Phillipe, something of a pretty boy and a smartass at the same time. Bob Lee's "friend" at the FBI, Nick Memphis, has also been re-imagined -- from a man to a woman. In other words, the current story and the characters driving this series are less about the original Stephen Hunter character, and more the kind of thing you would expect from focus groups. Clean. Politically correct. And just a little boring.
To be really clear -- there is nothing inherently wrong with trying to make something better, assuming of course you do not end up making it worse in the process. And that is the problem.
Assuming for example that the hit TV action series BANSHEE is currently the "gold standard" for a male-oriented action show, SHOOTER in contrast comes in weak on story, weak on writing, weak on casting, weak on acting, and weak on direction.
Even the music -- a constant drone through the entire first episode meant to convey suspense -- is annoying.
As I said, first reviews are usually one fan trying to hook another.
This is not one of those reviews.
This show might become better with age, like wine. But the omens and portents suggest otherwise.
** REVIEWERS' ADDENDUM 12/28/16 **
Films and indeed film reviewers ultimately have to live in the real world. Revisiting my original review and the other critiques, I can see two opposing points of view forming. A large number of IMDb members (presumably other lifelong Swagger "fans") seemed to have agreed with my viewpoint. Another group seems to desperately want to look at the actual product solely on its own, and simply ask whether or not it meets minimum standards of entertainment (even though the plot arc for the whole season is already known if you read the book or saw the movie); and seem especially annoyed that we the viewers keep insisting on more...? If I didn't know better, I would venture that my original POV represents the "populist" position, ie, that fans who have supported the author and his character for decades actually DESERVE a production which respects their wants, hopes and aspirations. The other group seems to represent a more "establishment" POV saying, hey, the money guys, the guys who do the deals and make the decisions, went ahead with the safest and most politically-correct product, designed to appeal to everyone and yet offend no one, and most likely to appeal to the broadest audience in later syndication. And so maximize revenue. This is the way TV deals are made -- and who are YOU to suggest otherwise? Populists on one side. And the establishment on the other. Ironic isn't it? --- this bland series finally gets the blood boiling, and yet none of the action shows up on the actual screen?