Judge Ike Oden's aim is true.
Beckett: "One shot, two kills? Nice." Miller: "You heard about that one, huh?"
In his first starring role, Chad Michael Collins is Marine Sgt. Brandon Beckett, son of renowned sniper Thomas Beckett (who was played by Inception's Tom Berenger in the original Sniper). While working with U.N. Forces in the war torn Congo, Brandon's Marine unit attempts to rescue an aristocratic farmer. They are sabotaged by a sniper, who takes out the farmer and Brandon's entire platoon. He makes it back to base barely alive. When he comes to in the medic bay, he's face-to-face with C.I.A. sniper instructor Richard Miller (Billy Zane, reprising his role from Sniper), who is intent on bringing him back to America. Brandon declines and sets out on a suicide mission into the Congo to take revenge on the rogue sniper. Miller tags along for the ride to protect the son of the man who trained him.
I'm absolutely in love with the first Sniper. I watched it all the time as a kid thanks to its late-night play on basic cable during the 1990s. After rediscovering it on DVD in recent years, I love it even more. The film is less a straight action film and more of a quiet, intense character study. Tom Berenger does some of his best work as burnt-out, existentially doomed sniper Thomas Beckett. Billy Zane gives a fairly restrained performance as Miller, a sympathetic desk jockey hesitant to kill. The film is gorgeously shot, with masterfully staged action set pieces and meticulous attention to detail. It is an unsung classic of the genre, in my book.
Sniper Reloaded is none of these things. The film is betrayed by its low-budget, straight-to-video status. Where the first film had great 35mm Panavision photography, this one is shot-on-digital and put through a lot of post-production lighting manipulation. It also contains some obvious CGI—not a copious amount, but the occasional muzzle flash and blood stream to remind you it is a direct to video. The storyline is more than a bit predictable and hindered by a somewhat wonky narrative wraparound that sort of slows the action down. There's a lot more action per pound than the first movie, but it plays so unrealistically that none of it has quite the same punch.
Yet, for all these criticism, I cannot deny the film delivered a hell of a good time. It is a solid straight-to-video action flick with a capable cast, decent script (by John "Rock N Roll Nightmare" Fasano, no less), and functional direction. It's an action yarn for a lazy afternoon, nothing more, nothing less.
The cast is mostly forgettable, with the exception of the film's two stars. Chad Michael Collins is no Tom Berenger in the acting department, but given that Tom Berenger has, um, gained some poundage over the past few years, he's a suitable stand in. Brandon Beckett is a bit white bread and lacks Berenger's paranoid intensity, but that's sort of the point—he's a rookie Marine, not a sniper. His character isn't some burnt out veteran on the point of implosion, he's a good-natured grunt, a kid as American as apple pie. Collins does the action stuff well and I hope to see him in future installments of this series. Preferably with Tom Berenger in tow.
Collins delivers commendable work, but Billy Zane is the glue that keeps the film together. Though his screen time is limited—I'm assuming the filmmakers could only afford him for a few days—Zane's older, wiser Miller is undeniably charming, witty, and super badass. I've always been a fan of Billy Zane's high-energy performances. Sure, he's chewed some scenery in his day, but that's sort of why I like him—he's super fun to watch in almost anything he shows up in. For whatever reason, he has more or less been relegated to the direct-to-video negative zone of film industry in recent years. Nevertheless, fans of Sniper will be happy to know Zane brings his A-game to Sniper: Reloaded. He seems to be having a hell of a good time reprising his role, and you'll have a good time watching him and his epic mustache kill bad guys.
Sony delivers decent work with Sniper: Reloaded's transfer. It is reasonably sharp for a shot-on-digital flick of this sort, though skin tones often seem a little too pale in some scenes due to post-production lighting wankery. The 5.1 surround track is pretty standard action stuff, containing lots of zinging bullets and explosions. It's not going to give your home theater a workout, but it is clear and detailed enough to get its point across in those critical action scenes. There are no extras.
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