'Shooter' misfires in leap from movie to USA drama

Ryan Phillippe stars in the USA Network series "Shooter."

(CNN)USA Network delayed the premiere of "Shooter" twice, each time because of a real-life event that made the sniper-themed drama seem awkwardly timed. That's a lot of grief, public-relations-wise, for a show that isn't good enough to merit it.

Adapted from the barely memorable 2007 movie starring Mark Wahlberg and the novel "Point of Impact," the series stars Ryan Phillippe as Bob Lee Swagger, a Marine sharpshooter who is recruited to foil a plot to kill the President. When it turns out that the whole thing is an elaborate scheme -- designed to frame him for the assassination attempt -- Swagger goes on the run, announcing in the second hour, "I'm gonna do what I do best."
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What he does best, of course, is kill people, and not just with a rifle, but also in hand-to-hand combat. As a consequence, "Shooter" is extremely violent, with its protagonist motivated by righteous indignation, especially when the bad guys put his wife (Shantel Vansanten) and young child in harm's way.
    Incorporating flashbacks to Swagger's time in the military, the series owes as much of a debt to "American Sniper" as its namesake, and the popularity of that movie clearly played a role in USA's enthusiasm for the project. The cast, frankly, is better than the material, with Omar Epps as Swagger's former commander, Cynthia Addai-Robinson as an FBI agent who begins to suspect Swagger isn't lying about the sweeping conspiracy and Tom Sizemore as a CIA operative who oozes sleaze.
    Adapted by John Hlavin (who worked on "The Shield"), and counting Wahlberg and Phillippe among its producers, "Shooter" delivers a limited amount of simple-minded thrills, while seeking to emulate the pacing that turned "24" into a long-running hit. But the entire exercise feels tired -- down to the involvement of a Russian bogeyman -- despite the twists and shifting alliances that unfold over its 10 episodes.
    While such stories can uncomfortably parallel reality, there's enough of a pass-the-popcorn vibe to "Shooter" that USA was probably being over-cautious in rescheduling the premiere. Indeed, given the amount of gun violence in America, if that was going to be a concern it's hard to see why potential problems weren't recognized before ordering the series.
    "A bullet is forever," Bob Lee explains early on, in gruff voiceover. Maybe so, but one suspects "Shooter" won't possess the same sort of shelf life.
    "Shooter" airs November 15 at 10 p.m. on USA.