By Michael Slezak
Updated March 23, 2007 at 07:54 PM EDT

So Mark Wahlberg, you’re coming off an Academy Award-nominated turn in The Departed, and you follow it up with… the sniper-on-the-run action vehicle Shooter? Hmmm. Okay, maybe not the most obvious choice to snag you a repeat Oscar nod, but a closer inspection of this morning’s reviews from newspapers across the country finds that, while the film is generating mostly lukewarm notices, you’re (mostly) continuing to shore up your position as a critical darling. Read on…

Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times: “Oscar-nominated for The Departed, Walhberg is a brooding, convincing actor who seems to gain confidence and improve with every role. With Shooter, he is called on to carry the picture while adding enough conviction to make its numerous Mission: Impossible implausibilities seem reasonable. He does it and makes it look easy.”

Ty Burr, Boston Globe: “Wahlberg brings a grim purposefulness to his role, and he doesn’t grandstand or preen. Personally, I prefer the actor when he has his thinking cap on, as in The Departed, or when he’s at a dimbulb loss (I Heart Huckabees, Boogie Nights), but he’s eminently watchable here.”

Christy Lemire, Associated Press: “Wahlberg, all buffed and stoic, continues to solidify his screen presence as a believable action hero — a working-class guy who believes in honor and loyalty, just like you and me, only with bigger biceps.”

Roger Moore, Orlando Sentinel:”Wahlberg seems to have been watching old Bogart-George Raft movies,the way he’s been rushing through dialogue in films like this one and The Departed.He’s already physically imposing, a believable action hero. The manicpatter is the speech of a man in a hurry, and if he ever gets thoselines to come fast and furious and articulate (he slurs, a lot), hewill flat-out own the tough-guy genre.”

Moira Macdonald, Seattle Times: “Mark Wahlberg, in Shooter,is so tough, you could serve him on a plate at a greasy-spoon diner,with potatoes on the side…. The role of action hero suits him, withhis bland good looks and impressive biceps, but there isn’t a realperformance here.”

Manohla Dargis, The New York Times:”A natural screen presence, Mr. Wahlberg is charmingly sincere (he’slike a cruder, more street Matt Damon), though when he sheds hisclothes, the glint in his eyes is as knowing as that of an old Vegasstripper.”

Jack Garner, Gannett News Service: “Wahlberg, however, follows up his Oscar-nominated turn in The Departedturn with another tough performance as the disillusioned soldier whoreluctantly returns for one more mission, only to be betrayed again.”

David Elliott, San Diego Union-Tribune:”Wahlberg is about verbal fluency a lot like Steve McQueen was. He letsdialogue slide out of his mouth, a dribble of basic telegraphy. Wedon’t care about missing much because his eloquence is in his fleetmoves, as trimly packaged as the rounds he fires.”

Michael Sragow, Baltimore Sun: “Mark Wahlberg proved himself a dynamo as a motormouth in The Departed, so it’s disappointing to see him play the strong silent type in Shooter…. Aformer ace Marine scout-sniper turned mountain man, he gets about fourdecent laugh-lines. Happily, Wahlberg detonates each one. Otherwise, asthey say in journalism and sports as well as politics these days, hedoes a good job of ‘holding the position.'”