Sunday, September 4, 2016

Sniper: Ghost Shooter (2016) Review:

It's amazing that the Tom Berenger / Billy Zane thriller Sniper (1993) franchise has made it this far. Has this series cultivated a secret fanbase? Or do the producers believe there is a fanbase and keep on making sequels anyway? It just seems hard to believe that the first film would have made such an impact on viewers. It was well executed movie yes but the crew attached didn't have filmmakers like Steven Spielberg or Clint Eastwood in the director's chair. The man behind the first film was Luis Llosa, the director of The Specialist (1994) and Anaconda (1997). These were both films that people viewed as fairly silly movies. This is probably Llosa's best entry in American cinema but it still won't hold a flame to a lot of other well made popular films. When a series like this has gotten this far in making sequels with no public critical reception, it truly is an anomaly. So how does this sixth entry hold up in the array of sniper films? Well it certainly isn't unwatchable,...yet. Thankfully it works but it has warning signs.

Beckett Jr. & Richard Miller
Directed again by Don Michael Paul from Sniper: Legacy (2014), fans are once again brought back to Sgt. Brandon Beckett (Chad Michael Collins) in the field doing what he does best. Unfortunately after hesitating on an assignment and lashing out at another officer, Richard Miller (Billy Zane) puts him on probation with Russian sniper Andrei Mashkov (Ravil Isyanov). Meanwhile the Colonel (Dennis Haysbert) and assistant lead Robin Slater (Stephanie Vogt) try to find a "ghost shooter" by the name of Gazakov (Velislav Pavlov) who's looking to stop a certain business pipeline. Written this time by Chris Hauty, the screenplay works to some degree but fails to make certain connections clear and answer some questions. For Hauty, this is his fifth writing credit of which this is his first related work to this series. This is possible as to why not everything is clear, but Hauty has written for three other sequels so he should have had some idea as to what constituted as a narrative that continued the story at an engaging level.

Unsuccessfully this isn't the case here. Hauty's inclusion of the probation period for Beckett was okay until it became unnecessarily extended for an action shootout sequence. That in fact could have been substituted in for time with Beckett's other team members like Barnes (Enoch Frost), Cervantes (Nick Gomez), Aungst (Presciliana Esparolini) or just cut it out completely. Ravil Isyanov as Mashkov does have some comical quips with Beckett but the development really should have went to somebody closer. Then there's no explanation for missing persons. What happened to Sanaa (Mercedes Mason) from Sniper: Legacy (2014) or even Beckett Sr. (Tom Berenger) for that matter? Where did these characters vanish to? Where's the consistency? When starting the second trilogy, you brought on Billy Zane, then dropped him for Tom Berenger and then did the reverse again? Fans should demand to see Billy Zane and Tom Berenger on the same screen again. Those are the two old men who started it all, so get them on the same screen.

Now although Zane and Berenger are still not on screen together, Billy Zane returning as Richard Miller is still acceptable. Zane still looks like he's having fun in the role and enjoys playing the sarcastic wise cracking supervisor of Beckett's son. Miller even has a few comments that don't even really make sense but the way he says it is anyway. When it comes to Beckett Jr.'s team, few of them get much development. Sure they have a few moments of flare but nothing really makes the viewer want to see more of them and hope they survive all the shootouts. Of the members, only Cervantes (Nick Gomez) has some kind of arc. Everyone else is just kind of there. As for other actors, there's also appearances from Dominic Mafham and Navid Negahban as a blind connection to Gasakov. Negahban playing a blind man had a great look. Foggy contacts make him look like someone who's real clever and full of knowledge. Mafham as Bidwell "Bulletface" sadly gets less screen time than he did before but when he is shown, it's good to see him.

"Can you believe they didn't bring on Berenger again?"
Action sequences were well executed again. There might've been not as much carnage edited in but it still got fairly messy. The shooting throughout this film is quite abundant so there's bound to be explosions and RPGs. In addition, there are also drones in which are used in firing missiles. Those perhaps are the weakest looking parts because obviously they wouldn't have real drones. The camerawork provided by Martin Chichov looked good. It wasn't easy to tell what was green screen and what was actually filmed. Much of the scenery looked authentic and shot on sight. The film also may not be the ultimate widescreen but there is a number of establishing shots that get a lot of the landscape and it looks great. Composing the musical score for the second time in this franchise was Frederik Wiedmann. Regrettably again, Wiedmann does not have or bother to create a memorable main cue for this franchise but that thought seems to have died long ago. As for music in general, it's decently composed with guitar and Middle Eastern instruments.

Now that this series has completed its second trilogy, maybe the producers and filmmakers can get back to basics once more. The main actors, music, action and camerawork are fun but it's all brainless. The connections are lazily tacked in and some scenes could've been utilized more efficiently.

Points Earned --> 6:10

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