Sony // 2005 // 95 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // September 23rd, 2005
The fate of two nations rests in his hands.
Our tagline writers have been fired.
Settling into his new role as a headliner for direct-to-video actioners, Wesley Snipes (Blade) returns to the small screen as a bad-ass Army Ranger, sent in to defuse a potential nuclear nightmare in Russia.
Chechen rebels have taken over an old Soviet nuclear reactor and are holding hostage all the workers. Fearing an international crisis, and realizing that the Kremlin is staffed by a bunch of panty-wearing weenies, the United States decides to send in a crack Rangers team to secure the hostages, and plant a homing device to guide a precision missile strike.
Painter (Snipes) is the reclusive member of the team, but deadly in his force and skilled in his homing beacon-placing ability. But when the mission hits an unforeseen impasse, it will be up to Painter to rescue his captured comrades, defeat the dirtbag rebels, prevent an atomic holocaust, and shoot lots of bad guys in the stomachs.
Well, I suppose Snipes had resigned himself to the next step in his movie-making journey. Thankfully, The Marksman has a decent budget behind it and some action chops. However, that doesn't quite lift the movie from the bowels of the straight-to-video action abyss; uninspired storytelling and a plodding place neuter the flick.
The Marksman is a mediocre action film, derivative in plot points, though fairly slick in execution. From the opening sequence, where we are first introduced to the one-man awesome-machine that is Painter (set in the middle of a seemingly heated battlefield that, in fact, turns out to be a -- surprise! -- training exercise)(, The Marksman takes its narrative marching orders from other, better action films.
For example, you've got the oft-milked plotline of a group of elite soldiers heading into overwhelming odds against an assortment of Eurotrash mercenaries (another beloved shoot'em-up hallmark) faced with a hostage rescue mission that goes awry. Even the team members themselves are far from unique, including the no-nonsense captain, the meek, but heroic little guy who delivers in the clutch, and the frat boy F-bomb dropper (paging Mr. Paxton).
And how about our protagonist, the quiet, mysterious super-soldier who's been struggling with issues from his past, stemming from the death of a few of his soldier friends? Heck, he even gets counseling from an attractive, bureaucratic white girl!
But we can forgive this bankruptcy of originality, right? I man, what action flicks these days operate from entirely innovative premises? Just give us a welcome dose of R-rated mayhem! We action junkies are easily satiated!
The Marksman delivers some meaty thrills towards this end, but the buildup to the action is slow. Nearly half the movie transpires before we get to the meat and potatoes of the gunplay. Up to that point, there's a lot of stealthy walking and snooping and incoherent hand motions that signify some kind of military ground maneuvers, and some bloviating from government higher-ups looking at giant JPEGs of the terrorist leader on a wall-length computer monitor, but precious little bullet-ridden shenanigans.
Eventually, the you-know-what hits the fan and Snipes and a pal start ventilating the bad guys. As such, the body count is impressive and the explosions are huge. It's just that the action lacks punch, or, for that matter, kick. MIA is Snipes's trademark fisticuff expertise, replaced with lots of gunshots to the abdomen.
One fight seemed to be headed toward a satisfying rock'em sock'em sequence (against the requisite muscle-bound bald-headed goon), but Snipes gives the guy a few rabbit punches, then shoots him in the leg and again in the back. Is it more plausible than a skull-bashing melee? Sure. More entertaining? Nope.
The Marksman is presented in an uneven anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen transfer that varies from sharp and solid to dirty and grainy (all of the darker scenes). As for the audio, the 5.1 digital mix is strong, with good use of the discrete channels and a thundering LFE. There are no extras of note.
The Marksman is certainly better than many of its straight-to-the-video-rack brethren, but make no mistake -- it belongs among them.
The accused misses the mark.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Rated R