Sunday, March 23, 2014

Levon Helm as the Legendary Sniper in The Shooter

In the 2007 movie “The Shooter” Mark Wahlberg plays former Marine scout sniper Bob Lee Swagger who is pressed into service to stop an assassination attempt against the president but is double-crossed and framed for the attempt. He escapes and seeks out the advice of a legendary former USMC sniper, played by the late Levon Helm, a bit part, but an interesting character.

After his best friend and spotter is killed on a mission gone bad, the expert Level One sniper leaves the service to live in a remote wilderness cabin with his hound dog, until this special mission comes up. Rather than save the life of the president however, he is set up to be the fall guy and patsy in the assassination, but unlike Oswald, he gets away and sets out to get even with those who framed him.

With the help of a disgraced FBI agent he sets up an elaborate scheme to trap those responsible, not only for the assassination, but for killing his spotter and his dog. He learns that he was on the wrong side in his last mission, working on behalf of the oil moguls and against the real freedom fighters. When it comes down to just getting away or getting even, he sets the record straight, as to what his motives are, explaining, “You don’t understand – they killed my dog.”

In “The Shooter” Levon Helm plays “Mr. Rate,” a retired legendary shooter who is a character based in part as a composite of two real USMC snipers – Chuck Mawhinney and Carlos Norman Hathcock. Mr. Rate is sought out for counsel by the framed sniper on the run.

When asked about a bullet not leaving a mark that can be traced to a particular rifle, Levon Helm’s character Mr. Rate refers to a 1877 text book by “Schoefeld” that discusses “paper-wrapped bullets” as not leaving such marks. “State of the art, over 100 years ago,” he quips.

JFK was a bad job to take he says, because “those boys on the Grassy Knoll were dead three hours later, buried in the desert,” He knows he says, because he still has the shovel.  

As for the government, he says: “They also said artificial sweeteners are safe, there’s Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq and Anna Nicole marries for love.”

Some other words of wisdom include the advice: “The world ain’t what it seems, and the moment you figure you got it figured out, you’re wrong.”

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