While working with the UN Forces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Marine Sgt. Brandon Beckett (Chad Michael Collins), son of renowned sniper Thomas Beckett, receives orders to rescue a European farmer trapped in the middle of hostile rebel territory. When he and his men arrive at the farm, a mysterious sniper ambushes them, wounding Beckett and killing everyone else. With the help of his father’s former protégé, sniper instructor Richard Miller (Billy Zane), Beckett must learn to think like a sniper to track down the assassin before the sniper returns to finish the job.
It's no surprise that the 1993 Tom Berenger actioner Sniper
spawned a franchise of sorts based on its successful formula of a lone wolf military marksman who plays by his own rules and always gets his man. Berenger appeared in two direct-to-video sequels in 2002 and 2004, returning to his role as Marine Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Beckett, the solitary crack shot who traveled to far-flung global hot spots to aim his never-miss cross hairs at bad guys of various repute. The surprise about Sniper: Reloaded
is not so much that it comes 18 years later or that the now paunchy, white-haired Berenger (see: Inception
) is absent from the movie, but that this home-video exclusive plays as such a brisk and efficient stand-alone mercenary action feature. Not-so-notable TV hunk Chad Michael Collins plays Brandon Beckett, the estranged son of Berenger's character, as a marine grunt loaned out to a UN peacekeeping unit in the Congo. The nature of the father/son relationship is glossed over, even though it's clear that Brandon is his own man and has no aspirations to be a sharpshooter hero like his dad. But on a mission to escort a European landowner to safety, a mysterious sniper who is clearly cut from the same cloth as Beckett Sr. massacres the homesteader, Brandon's squad of marines, and the accompanying Congolese soldiers, gravely injuring Brandon in the process. Enter Billy Zane, if only briefly, reprising his original Sniper
role as Berenger's protégé, Richard Miller. He is now a paternal figure on the scene to snap Brandon into shape in his father's image when Brandon goes AWOL on a mission of personal vengeance against the mystery sniper. The war-torn atmosphere and action set pieces are very well executed, with a minimum of exposition and plot details slowing things down. There are plenty of bloody "oh, yeah!" kill-shot close-ups as seen through spotting scopes against the African backdrops, and Brandon even squeezes in some sexy bedroom action with a blonde Australian army lieutenant. Though the production design is not necessarily lavish, the authenticity and ambiance is strong enough to give Sniper: Reloaded
a healthy shot at DVD shelf life on its own terms. --Ted Fry