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Sniper: Reloaded

tn_sniperreloadedIn the tradition of SNIPER and THE MATRIX RELOADED comes a movie that has the words SNIPER and RELOADED in the title. Actually this is the fourth entry in the SNIPER series and yet another example of the 21st century’s trend of surprised-they-made-this, not-bad, not-great DTV sequels.

Get it, though? For The Matrix it was a computer program or something that was reloaded, for Sniper it’s a gun.

The original SNIPER is a solid little movie based around 1. the relationship between grizzled vet Tom Berenger and young hotshot Billy Zane and 2. the unique premise of an action movie dedicated to firing the least amount of bullets necessary. Or the second least. Not a non-violence movie, but a painstaking-violence movie. While Rambo was spraying entire armies with automatic fire the snipers were hiding in bush costumes for days waiting for the perfect moment to fire one shot. The not-as-good-but-semi-enjoyable sequels teamed Berenger with other young partners and found reasons to have more explosions than the first time, to spruce things up.

Berenger made a great tough-older guy in the era of THE SUBSTITUTE, but these days he’s wider and less mobile, and mostly does supporting roles ranging from warden (FASTER) to sick old man (INCEPTION, SMOKIN’ ACES 2). Mostly sitting down, I’ve noticed. So RELOADED is Berenger-free and picks up with Marine Sergeant Brandon Beckett (Chad Michael Collins), who’s supposed to be the son of Berenger’s character (and does look like him). He’s in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on a UN mission to save a European farmer who lives in the middle of hostile territory. But the farmer doesn’t want to leave and then they’re attacked by a rebel sniper who wounds Beckett and kills the rest of the soldiers.

mp_sniperreloadedBeckett is not a sniper, but who should show up in his hospital room but a friend of his dad’s, Richard Miller played by the one and only (two only if you count Arnold Vosloo) Billy Zane. And although Beckett’s not really with it at first Miller gives him some lessons and sayings and shit to get him into the mind of a sniper so he can track down the fucker that did this and figure out who set them up or whatever, I forget exactly. He combines Miller’s sniper philosophy with his own:

“You will never see him coming.”

“Then I’ll have to make him come to me.”

There’s also a little girl involved, ’cause the farmer had a daughter. There’s a part where Beckett brings her DVDs of the Jonas Brothers and THIS IS IT, and she says she can’t play them because they’re region 5. I’m pretty sure this is the first movie I’ve ever seen that has dealt with the important movie-watcher issue of region coding, and it’s also something a young European living in Africa would probly know about. So I was impressed that was in there.

During the shootouts there’s some gimmicky but not too spastic camera tricks, kind of like the gun POV shots in S.W.A.T.: FIREFIGHT. After Beckett has been wounded there’s a camera attached to his face to sort of show how wobbly and disoriented he is as he stumbles around, and it’s pretty much the same trick they used for Yaphet Kotto at the end of TRUCK TURNER. Good shit.

I was also impressed that they have some giraffes and shit. Not in the same shots with the actors, but it doesn’t look like stock footage, it looks like they actually went out and shot it. So let me be Billy Zane and teach DTV producers a valuable piece of wisdom: giraffes = production value.

Director Claudio Fah did THE HOLLOW MAN II, but this is better than that. The script is credited to sequelizers John Fasano (ANOTHER 48 HOURS, UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: THE RETURN) and Ross Helford (WILD THINGS 2-3, SNIPER 3, SINGLE WHITE FEMALE 2).

While researching this review I came across this discussion of the trailer on a bulletin board for snipers. I was gonna quote the guy who wrote:

“Hehe…I warned you guys about this one months ago. The director is an old colleague of mine and he asked for my help early on because he wanted to honestly try to make it realistic. I walked him through as much as I could on the technology and craft, but the script was obviously written by someone who lacks a background in this stuff, so it falls into the same category as similar sniper films. There were some things that were easy to change and others were just too entrenched, so I like to think it’s not as bad as it could be. It was shot in South Africa on a shoestring budget and I like to think they did the best they could but there’s only so much you can do.”

But it gets more interesting for a minute when a poster who is apparently co-writer Fasano (also director of ROCK ‘N ROLL NIGHTMARE, by the way) defends the movie and the ability of writers to learn about things they don’t have a background in, and also describes some of the reasons that the “military realism” demanded on that bulletin board is difficult to achieve in a movie.

I’m already forgetting SNIPER:RELOADED (I forgot there was a sex scene until it was mentioned in that discussion) but what I’ll take away from it is that Billy Zane can still be exciting. Some people don’t like him, I think they associate him too much with the one-dimensionally evil guy he played in TITANIC. And they’re still pissed at him for predicting that Picasso would go nowhere. But you and I know what a fun villain he was in TALES FROM THE CRYPT: DEMON KNIGHT, and I’ll always respect his cornball heroics in THE PHANTOM. Here he sports a decent mustache, verging on Hulk Hogan style, and projects his original character into his older years where he’s a seen-it-all sniper instructor. One of those guys that half-smiles to himself because he knows better than everybody else but tries not to be a dick about it. It’s a supporting character, not a lead but not a cameo. The actual lead is fine, but whenever Zane’s on screen the movie becomes much more interesting.

In conclusion, I would like to apologize to our service men and women for posting a review of SNIPER: RELOADED on Memorial Day.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Monday, May 30th, 2011 at 11:52 am and is filed under Action, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

32 Responses to “Sniper: Reloaded”

  1. FlyingGuillotine

    May 30th, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    He was fantastic in DEMON KNIGHT. That film deserves more credit, overall.

  2. John Fasano is also the guy who wrote the crazy unused version of Alien 3.

    The one where Ripley crash lands on an artificial, wooden (!) planet tended by monks living in a medieval society. And Ripley has trippy hallucinatory nightmares about faith and sanity, the Alien creature is an allegory of the Devil, and one of the monks is ripped down by the Alien through a outhouse poophole while taking a dump (the monk, not the Alien).

  3. There’s a very popular bumper sticker around where I live:

    “God bless our troops…
    especially our snipers.”

  4. I’m not complaining, but does anyone else find it a bit odd that the trend of DTV sequels is still going strong to this day even though video stores are quickly becoming a thing of the past? (my town for example only has one left and it’s not even a blockbuster, which recently closed)

    it seems to be like DTV sequels depend on someone stumbling on them in a video store and maybe not even realizing that their DTV, with online stuff like Netflix (save for their suggestions) you pretty have to know beforehand what you want to rent, there’s not much stumbling upon

    similarly those Godawful Asylum B-movies that rip off blockbusters playing in theaters depend entirely on stupid people renting them not realizing that they’re not the movies currently playing in theaters and yet Asylum seems to shit out a new movie every month

  5. Ace Mac Ashbrook

    May 30th, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    I’ve never seen a “mockbuster”, but I would sit through Snakes On A Train.

  6. I don’t know, Griff. Netflix is pretty conducive to browsing. And it would be easy for unwary movie watchers to stumble upon a DTV sequel without meaning to. Also, a lot of those unwary customers are not media savvy yet and still prefer the video store format. It’s all about age and comfort with technology. There are a lot of older consumers that won’t purchase anything on the internet and are frightened that facebook wants to steal their identity.

    On another note, the Blockbusters in my small town is closing and I just spent a pile of cash on their going out of business sale. Ironically, the death of Blockbusters in my town will be a true boon to the local mom and pop video shops that will gain a lot of customers after Blockbuster dies. (good riddance)

  7. I sometimes miss looking through a physical aisle trying to decide what to watch for the evening. Although I agree that Netflix tries to make browsing easier, the lack of physicality makes things a little different. I wonder how these new Direct to Video movies affect sales of older titles in the series. My guess is that boosting sales/rentals/streaming of the original Sniper is probably as much a part of business strategy as piquing the interest of old fans of the series.

    And it’s interesting that whenever there’s a newspaper article mentioning that Blockbuster is going under, they always talk about how it lost out to the internet, but they never talk about their terrible service and the many ways they attempted to trick you into turning your videos in late just to get the extra fee. If Blockbuster hadn’t alienated so many customers, then maybe their attempt to get into the online rental business wouldn’t have fallen apart so quickly.

  8. Regarding DTV in a streaming world, my understanding is that legit streaming sites like Netflix really want to keep the count of titles available to stream high, which makes it seem like they have a lot to offer. They’re hoping people don’t notice that, for every high-profile title that floats to the top, there are 20 fly-by-night cheapos further down the list….

  9. Good review Vern. I quite liked this one, and thought Chad Michael Collins did a good job in the lead, and I liked the ending which hinted at further adventures with Becket in Black Ops. I also liked that Zane’s character didn’t hold any rank, kind of like Val Kilmer’s character in Spartan.

  10. Vern: don’t forget “Dead Calm.” Definitive Billy Zane movie. Yeah there’s Sam Neil and Nicole Kidman but Zane’s acting chops stole that movie, it’s a really frightening character.

    And don’t tell me you haven’t seen it. If not, a solid recommendation, you won’t be disappointed. The best thing about “Dead Calm” is it is just a really solid engrossing story.

    And death-by-X at the end of movie (I won’t reveal who is killed or what X is that kills them) is a must see for all aficionados of weird deaths on screen.

  11. oh man BR Baraka *SPOILER ALERT FOR DEAD CALM*

    Bill Zane getting the flare in the mouth made me absolutely crack up with laughter, funniest villain death ever

  12. Knox Harrington

    May 31st, 2011 at 4:19 am

    Speaking of The Matrix, there’s a rumour going around that the Wachowski’s are planning a Matrix 4 and 5, and that they’ve spoken to James Cameron about how to make the best use of 3D.

    Question is, do we really want two more Matrix movies? I’d rather see the brothers do something else, but after Speed Racer (I fuckin love that movie) kinda flopped, I guess this is the only big property they can get financed. I guess I wouldn’t mind seeing more of the Matrix world in some kind of a spin-off story, without Keanu in the lead. If it’s just gonna be more of the same, then why bother?

  13. that news was a hoax Knox Harrington

  14. It goddamn better be a hoax. That is seriously the last thing we need from the bros. Wachowski. The Matrix is done and that is all. If the bros. are having budget woes maybe they should scale back for a couple of pictures. Concentrate on story and character again instead of going for the fx pie in the sky all the time. I enjoyed SPEED RACER too, but where do you go from that over the top extravaganza? You turn it around and do something totally different that doesn’t cost the studios an arm and another arm.

    On another note, does anyone else miss the smell of their old corner video stores, full of dusty vhs tapes? Or is that just me.

  15. Isn’t the next Wachowski movie supposed to be a gay love story in Iraq, told in a “found footage” way? What happened to this one? Is it cancelled already?

  16. Jareth Cutestory

    May 31st, 2011 at 8:20 am

    Griff: I don’t know how widespread this phenomenon is, but the people who frequent my local video store rent a lot of movies, sometimes five or six at a time. DTV accounts for about 40% of each week’s new releases, and the customers don’t seem to make any distinction whatsoever between them and the Hollywood stuff. They only distinction they make is between English and subtitled movies, English being preferable to them because most people are morons. The store routinely puts notes on mockbuster releases informing these customers that the film in question isn’t the one currently playing in theaters.

    Exactly how they find the time to watch so many movies is beyond me. Maybe they just like to have them playing in the background while they’re doing something else. Or they’ve got one movie playing on each of the dopey electoronic devices that they own.

    A buddy told me recently that “let’s rent a video” is a code phrase for “let’s fuck,” the same way that “let’s have coffee” is a code for “let’s have a date and see if we’re compatible for fucking.”

    If that’s true, a different standard of film viewership than “quality” or “craftsmanship” would probably be applied to their choices. I tend to rent movies in a somewhat scholarly or geeky way, so I kind of resent the idea that mainstream audiences are using films as props for their sex lives. But that certainly helps explain the popularity of DTV at this particular store.

    It’s kind of odd for me to try to imagine a person’s choice of movies being a form of foreplay, but my buddy assures me that it is a widespread phenomenon. It certainly explains why no one ever rents the store’s Criterion Collection. And maybe why HACKERS is always rented out.

  17. Jareth, I do believe you have the makings for an anthropological study of dumbass video store customers and their sex habits. Perhaps a questionnaire cross referenced with their rental histories?

    But come on. Have you never invited a girl over to watch a movie? Have you never based your rental choice on what you think she might like? Or even on what might get her in the mood? I’m not sure HACKERS would be my first choice but they could do worse, I suppose.

    Here’s a story for you – In my younger, more naive days, I had a group of friends over for a movie night. A mix of guys and girls. I chose to show them TAXI DRIVER. Here, I thought, is one of the great American films with perhaps THE great American performance. How could they not love it and thank me for bringing to their attention. Well, they unanimously hated it and were quite angry with me for forcing them to sit through such garbage. I didn’t understand it then, but my geek tastes went totally against the popular grain. They wanted stupid nonsense but they got great American classic and they reacted badly. For a long while after that, I thought it my fault. I’d picked the wrong movie. But now I know better.
    Jareth, I was Travis Bickle that night. But it’s Ok because then I was Tyler Durden and blew up their homes and then I was Keyser Söze and totally got away with it.

  18. Jareth Cutestory

    May 31st, 2011 at 9:14 am

    Darryll: I can appreciate that sometimes people like to watch films in a group setting, and I don’t mind participating in that kind of thing from time to time, though I prefer that kind of party-viewing in a repertory theater with strangers. EVIL DEAD and DEATHWISH films lend themselves well to that sort of thing.

    The one time a group took my suggestion, I showed them AFTER HOURS. I thought I had made a huge concession to the more mainstream requirements of the setting; they all thought I was trying to punish them, much like your TAXI DRIVER experience.

    I’ve never been able to put the moves on a lady via a choice of movie. I’m just not that suave. The women I get along with best would resent that sort of conduct.

    I was going to write something about how I also miss the smell of the old corner video stores, but that’s the kind of thing that could result in a Proust-like tome. Ditto old theaters, bookstores and music stores.

  19. If it weren’t for my movie collection, I’d never get laid. On two separate occasions it has taken me three FRIDAY THE 13TH films to get into a girl’s pants. Works every time.

  20. CJ Holden – The bizarro Iraq war, gay love story, found footage film with sci-fi elements is called COBALT NEURAL 9. They shot some test footage for it, but they’ve had hard time getting financing and big enough stars to commit. Apparently it’s just too weird and expensive script, and rumor is that it’s just not very good either. Of course, studios had hard time buying into THE MATRIX too – maybe the Wachkowskis know what they’re doing with the material. Or maybe it’s just a total clusterfuck. I don’t know.

    The other film they have actually in production is CLOUD ATLAS, based on the book. They’re co-directing it with Tom Tykwer. They’re not shooting yet, but the casting is almost complete. It’s a go picture.

  21. Wow, HT. I just gave CLOUD ATLAS the once over on Wiki. Looks like a fantastic novel but I can barely imagine the film version. Talk about challenging material. Just the synopsis makes it read like a five hour movie. How do you condense that shit down?

    Kind of reminds me of that Robin Williams vehicle from years back (1994), BEING HUMAN. Anyone remember that one? Also, SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE comes to mind, of course.

  22. Just read a review of CLOUD ATLAS by AS Byatt. Definitely going on my summer reading list.

  23. “Berenger made a great tough-older guy in the era of THE SUBSTITUTE, but these days he’s wider and less mobile, and mostly does supporting roles ranging from warden (FASTER) to sick old man (INCEPTION”
    I think you’re thinking of Pete Postlethwaite there with INCEPTION. Don’t recall if Berenger did any of the underwater stuff from the van drop himself in that though.
    As for CLOUD ATLAS, Darryl, I was reading about it just the other day and the author of the book says there’s a “motif” that he doesn’t emphasise much in the story, but the Wachowskis are going to run with and that’s how they’re going to somehow manage to tell the story.

  24. ThomasCrown442

    May 31st, 2011 at 3:15 pm

    I’ve made many a mistake with my movie choices in the realm of dating. One time in college, i had a first date (first date meaning she came over to my apartment) with this hot Korean girl and she wanted to watch Daredevil. I wanted to watch The Last Boy Scout and, not surprisingly, we watched The Last Boy Scout. I also wanted to use the movie as kind of a compatibility test, if she liked it, she would be worth seeing again. Well she didn’t like it and I did not get laid that night. Looking back, it may have been worth watching Ben Affleck for an hour and a half if it meant hooking up with the hot Korean girl. Sometimes you have to make some sacrifices in the name of hooking up with hot Korean chicks I guess. Also, never use a movie as some kind of dating barometer. You’ll almost always be disappointed.

    In a group setting, its not always the movie geek that makes the wrong movie choice. Not long ago there were about 5 people at a friends house trying to pick a movie. For some crazy reason, they ended up choosing the Grey Zone. You wouldn’t think a holocaust drama would sound appealing on a sat night but they did. It was kind of a mood killer. I’ve also pretty much given up trying to introduce what I consider classics while in a group settings. There’s a time a place for certain movies. Trying to introduce Children of Men to a group of friends on a sat night would most likely produce distasterous results.

  25. Litmus test for me in my youth was always Things to Do In Denver When You’re Dead. Tarantinoesque dialogue with a hell of a story – grounded by Andy Garcia. In my opinion, definitely the best film to emerge from the “we have to have gangsters and overly self conscious dialogue delivered in a rapid fire manner” years that followed Pulp Fiction.

    And yes, I actually found a couple of girls that really dug Denver. Sadly, they turned out to be raving psychotic maniacs and I had one slashed tire and a broken out window (separate occasions) out of those relationships. But, I still love that movie.

  26. In my experience it doesn’t matter what movie you see in the beginning of a relationship, you always end up doing the horizontal mambo before the movie’s over. Which of course can seriously damage your relationship with some actors. I mean, sex in front of a man like Bronson can’t be a good thing, right?

  27. man, if they shot this in south africa then they should’ve just actually gotten arnold vosloo to play billy zane playing miller and saved some money! or maybe not, not sure how much salary billy zane actually commands, but they could have at least saved on airfare.

    here in japan the video store is still alive and well, as there’s no netflix equivalent over here, but i can tell that it won’t be long. i will definitely miss browsing in a store. i also miss big old vhs tapes. now that vhs is virtually obsolete, they have been selling old vhs movies (previously for rental usage) for dirt cheap, around ten cents a tape! since i still have a vcr i have been collecting tons of movies. and a lot of these are obscure movies from the 80’s and such that i either didn’t know about or would never think to watch otherwise (and i love few things more than obscure movies from the 80’s). the only drawback is they take up far too much room in my tiny tokyo apartment, and i hate to think of what i will do with all them when i move.

    oh and yeah, i thought it was common knowledge that if a girl agrees to come over to your place to watch a movie (or invites you to hers for same) it means you are 90% there. you’d have to go out of your way to mess that up with the choice of movie (but why not be safe and just put on LOVE, ACTUALLY anyway?).

  28. wow Virgin Gary, you live in Japan? are you Japanese? (I’m sure you can guess why I’m so interested)

  29. haha, nah, Griff, i’m american, but i’ve been living in japan for almost ten years now…

  30. Regardless of Billy Zanes output, he did manage to input Kelly Brook. Not a great actress but a fantastic piece of ass. The stath did get there first though…..

  31. On the subject of party movies, I was absolutely amazed one night when at a party with 5 or so friends(there had been more, but it was late, and the herd had thinned), when the idea of putting on a movie came up, someone actually busted out BATTLE ROYALE(subbed, no less!) and THAT was the movie that won the vote. Went over quite well, too…

  32. Saw this one recently, as well as Dolph’s COMMAND PERFORMANCE. They’re not really comparable except for being DTV, but I wondered nonetheless why, if both movies were supposedly low budget, SNIPER: FAREWELL TO THE FLESH (estimated $6 million production) looks so much better. Dolph got better acting jobs out of his performers, in my opinion, and the concert scene with the little girl dancing was really well shot, but this Sniper sequel looks way way better in terms of lighting, scope, cinematography, action coherence, geography, amount of giraffe footage, etc..

    It’s not Bulgaria’s fault; UNISOL: REGEN proves that. We know Dolph is super smart, and he should know what good action looks like. He handles the drum sticks better than he handles editing software, I guess. Very sad.

    Anyway, SNIPER: PORT OF CALL CONGO is not perfect but satisfactorily realistic in the military nitpick department. As for those old heads complaining or whatever in the message board Vern mentions — fuck those guys. (Hey, nice job doing your homework there, too, Vern. You display more of a commitment to journalistic thoroughness than some of the imbeciles at CNN. Your editor must be proud.)

    I actually thought it was going for *too much* tactical ultrarealism by having the squad go to the farmer’s home in full battle rattle and having them treat his driveway/front yard like an ambush site. But now that I think about it, the movie sets that up pretty well by showing the montage of the scary citizen-soldiers as seen through the windows of the UN vehicle en route to the Belgian’s house, didn’t it?

    If I were to complain about anything in SNIPER: RELOADED, it’d be that I don’t remember DRC looking like that, that there should have been more perspiration & insects, but that’s probably b/c they’re really in South Africa.

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