993's "Sniper", about American military snipers
working in the brushes of Panama, was a minor hit. Ten years later we get
"Sniper 2", which brings Tom Berenger back to reprise his role of
Beckett, an aging Marine sniper who must team up with a younger sniper to take
out a military leader on the wrong side of American interests. The two movies,
if you were wondering, have essentially the same premise.
This time around Beckett is brought out of retirement with
the promise of "anything he wants", and teamed up with Cole (Bokeem
Woodbine), an Army sniper who was sitting on Death Row before he was plucked out
to go on the mission with promises of a pardon. (In the original, the youngster
was Billy Zane of "Titanic" fame.) The target this time around is a
Serbian military leader in an unnamed Balkan city (or if it was named, I missed
it), who has gotten on the bad side of the CIA. Since Hollywood is incapable of
showing the CIA in any light other than dark and sinister (see "The
Bourne Identity"), the CIA sends one of their agents to recruit Beckett
to kill this latest nuisance.
And because Beckett's recruiter is one of those shifty
looking guys, it goes without saying that the mission is not what it appears to
be, and before long Beckett and Cole are fighting their way out of the unnamed
Balkan city with a politician dissident and an army of faceless bad guys at
their backs. The question is, can Beckett make it to the rendezvous point alive?
Or will the shifty CIA guy give him up for dead? Better yet, why are CIA agents
always so untrustworthy according to Hollywood writers?
"Sniper 2" benefits from having almost no
expectations connected to its release. Produced and sent directly to video, the
film is actually much better than you would expect, although its first 60
minutes suffers greatly by having its two snipers evading law enforcement in a
city environment. Unlike the original "Sniper", which took place
almost exclusively in the dense jungles of Panama, "Sniper 2" spends
too much of its time in the concrete jungle of the unnamed Balkan city. It's
easy to believe that two well-trained snipers can evade capture in the jungle,
but not so in a nearly empty city street.
TV veteran Craig R. Baxley directs "Sniper 2"
with a surprisingly sure hand. The sniper scenes are very well done, and the
film's final 30 minutes, with Beckett and Cole fighting it out with a group of
well armed men in the jungle, and then a sniper battle in a destroyed town, is
excellent. Not surprisingly, the final two sequences really brings home that
sniper movies don't work in cities, and are in fact made for jungle warfare.
It's only when the screenplay ignores all of the made-up
political plotlines that "Sniper 2" hits its stride. The scenes
cutting back to the shifty CIA guy monitoring Beckett and Cole's progress could
have been excised completely; it's old hat, and we don't need to see it in yet
another Behind Enemy Lines movie. The film should be about action, about the
science of sniping, and the camaraderie of the sniper and his spotter, and those
things alone are more than enough to fill 90 minutes of screentime. As it
stands, the film's attempt at international intrigue are done rather badly,
which should come as no surprise.
Tom Berenger ("D-Tox")
once again proves that he's most at home playing a man in uniform. His Marine
sniper didn't retire on his own, but was forced out because of an eye condition,
which is the worst thing that could happen to a sniper. When he's given the
chance to return to active duty and reclaim his rank and uniform, Beckett jumps
at it. Even though he's offered "anything he wants" by the shifty
spook, Beckett could really care less. The uniform and rank is all that matters
to him, and you have to respect that kind of devotion and loyalty. It's all
Beckett has known, and it's a chance to go back home again.
As the sidekick, Bokeem Woodbine ("The Big Hit")
portrays Cole as brash but intelligent, and avoids going the Chris Tucker route,
which I think we can all agree, is a good thing. The one thing this world
doesn't need is another Chris Tucker, since we can barely stand the first one.
Erika Marozsan plays Sophia, a female freedom fighter that aids Beckett and
Cole. She unceremoniously disappears about halfway through the movie, which is
rather odd because we never hear what happened to her character after that.
There was also an unspoken attraction between her and Cole that was fun to
Toward the end of the movie, the political dissident
character, having pooh-poohed Beckett and Cole's existence as men of violence up
to now, offers up a well-known George Orwell quote about war. Orwell, the author
of the anti-Big Brother novel "1984", was famous for his pacifism and
abhorrence of violence. The quote, which I believe is even more relevant in this
day and age, what with all the global unrest in the world at large, is this:
"People sleep peaceably in their beds at night
only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."
What the quote means is
this: Peace is great, but sometimes you must fight for it. And if you can't
stomach the fighting, then at least give respect to the men and women who can,