What “Shooter” Gets Wrong about Russian Conspiracies: The Real Thing Is Way Worse.

by Harry Leeds


Spoiler warning: this spoils everything.

As yet another associate of Trump and/or the Kremlin mysteriously met his untimely death in recent weeks, the conspiracies surrounding Russia keep getting deeper and revelations seem imminent. One book-made-into-a-movie-made-into-a-television-program based its plot on a CIA/BlackOps/Kremlin cover-up as early as last summer, and demonstrated an unusually ignorant understanding of Russia and her undercover operations.

The Netflix/USA series “Shooter” was shelved in the middle of production last July after the shootings of police officers during a protest in Dallas. The hero of this tale is a high-end-rifle-toting marine sniper named, and get this, Bob Lee Swagger (oh, and one of his adversaries is Agent Payne). USA was apparently biding for a time when gun violence would cease being such a problem in America. Instead, public attention shifted and “Shooter” was released.

The plot, and there are all spoilers here, is that Bob Lee, played by a singular expression on Ryan Phillippe’s angelic face, is asked to use his expertise to stop a Russian sniper. The assassin would be making an attempt on the life of the US President during a meeting with the Ukrainian one. To make a long story short, the Ukrainian President is shot in the face by a sniper, and Bob Lee is framed.

With his name released to the public under the heading “armed and dangerous,” Bob Lee is arrested, then escapes prison with the help of some Russian inmates who thank him for killing the Ukrainian president. Why did the Russians want the Ukrainian president dead? Well everyone knows Russians and Ukrainians had a conflicty-thing, the show hints.

No less confounding, the American media has framed Bob Lee’s murder of the Ukrainian president as a botched assassination of the American one. They claim that Swagger aimed for the POTUS, missed, and landed a perfect headshot on the Ukrainian prez by accident. His motives, or how his crosshairs slipped right into the face of the wrong man, are never questioned.

Bob Lee Swagger, whose three names only give credence to the idea that he is a bad guy, investigates his way through the machinations of his old commander Isaac, played by a confused Omar Epps, a Russian diplomat-gone-rogue, and a mercenary defense contractor to the US to discover the truth: there was a cover up in Ukraine about some kind of death camp (also never fully explained).

Swagger is assisted by FBI agent Nadine Memphis, a specialist tracking the Russian mafia who puts some of the pieces together. She follows the newspaper clippings (yes that’s right, physical paper clippings) of a Ukrainian journalist who has found out about this secret death camp. Memphis admits her Ukrainian isn’t very good and she is not sure what the articles say. She can’t use google translate or find a translator with the resources of the FBI, apparently, either. The most irritating piece of this scandal is Memphis’ confusion of country names. At different times during the series, the journalist is referred to as Russian, in others, Ukrainian. No Russia expert would fail to make this distinction, especially when the accusations centered around a conflict directly between Ukraine and Russia.

But for an American audience who only vaguely knows about the Ukraine-Russia conflict, and has been thoroughly confused by the media’s handling of it, this won’t matter. Yet the most laughable misunderstanding comes when Swagger’s daughter is kidnapped and brought to Russia. Well, it is actually the Russian embassy, but the cliffhanger at the end of the penultimate episode has Memphis stating, “She’s in Russia.”

In the sloppy and fanciful scenario offered by “Shooter”, the evil Russian diplomat is working alone, the young, handsome Russian ambassador is ignorant to the conspiracy, and the impact of any Russian manipulation on American politics is minimal. “Shooter” is unimaginative about what kind of conspiracies might be going on behind closed doors in Washington and Moscow. But the scary thing is, these invented conspiracies of only one year ago far underestimate the real ones.

One response to “What “Shooter” Gets Wrong about Russian Conspiracies: The Real Thing Is Way Worse.”

  1. Grover Furr says:

    We have no idea whether there are any “real ones” if by that you mean real conspiracies by “the Russians” to influence the American elections, hack HRC’s emails, and so on. The CIA may say so. But they should never be believed after their record of lying about the Vietnam War.

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