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1993′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 watch.
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, and does.
Craig R. Baxley (director) / Michael Frost Beckner, Crash Leyland, Ron Mita, Jim McClain (screenplay)
CAST: Tom Berenger …. Beckett
Bokeem Woodbine …. Cole
Erika Marozsan …. Sophia
Linden Ashby …. McKenna