Fortress was one of the few recent Bruce Willis films that was actually good, And now the sequel, Fortress: Sniper’s Eye has arrived. But while much of the cast is the same, Josh Sternfeld (Winter Solstice, Meskada) replaced James Cullen Bressack as director. Bressack also did a good job with Willis’ Survive the Game which begs the question if this film will suffer for not having him on board?
Fortress: Sniper’s Eye picks up in Russia two weeks after the end of the first film. A couple of goons are torturing Sasha (Natali Yura, Dead Trigger, Antidote) and filming it to send to her husband. Or at least they are until Robert (Bruce Willis, Death Wish, Breach) walks in and beats the crap out of both of them. Then we cut to two weeks after that and Sasha waking up from a nightmare back at the Fortress.
It’s been decommissioned after the events of the first film and as Paul (Jesse Metcalfe, Dead Rising: Endgame, Escape Plan 2: Hades) helps Kate (Kelly Greyson, Out of Death, Woodlawn), who is now his fiance, with the packing, Robert lies in what looks like ICU, which is a bit odd as he only took a bullet to the shoulder.
Sasha, for those who didn’t see the first film, was married to Balzary (Chad Michael Murray, Camp Cold Brook, House of Wax) who everyone thinks Robert killed in the first film. And we get a flashback to establish that. But if you saw Fortress you know otherwise. And soon so will everybody else.
Much of the first act of Fortress: Sniper’s Eye is spent recapping the events of the first film which means a lot of talk after the opening scenes. But by now I don’t think that surprises anyone. Writer Alan Horsnail, who also wrote the first film, tries to keep all the introductions and expositions from feeling too forced, but there’s so much of it that isn’t quite possible.
Things do start moving again when Balzary and a new bunch of mercenaries launch an attack on the compound. This is very bad timing as Kelly’s mother Carol (Welker White, The Irishman, Midnight in the Switchgrass) and younger sister Zoe (Gabrielle Haugh, The Midnight Man, Jeepers Creepers III) are visiting.
The problem is, by the time we get to that point, tedium has started to set in. There’s only so much domestic drama and awkward romantic dialogue you can shove in a film like this before the audience loses interest. Along with that Fortress: Sniper’s Eye is a very predictable film as characters act exactly the way you expect they will. That includes absolute boneheaded things like not increasing security on now compromised Fortress until all of its top-secret, high-tech gear and personnel are gone. Instead Balzary walks right in and takes Kate as a hostage to force Paul to do some high-stakes financial hacking.
I know this was meant to be the middle film of a trilogy, but that’s no excuse for making it so slow and talky. Almost all of the action takes place off-screen. For example, we don’t see the mercs take out the security detail, we hear Balzary boast about how easy it was. And some of what we do see is, to put it mildly, ridiculous, like Zoe sneaking up on a supposedly elite fighter and taking him out with a fire extinguisher.
Given what we’ve recently learned about Willis’ health I won’t say anything about his performance in Fortress: Sniper’s Eye beyond noting he’s not in it much and is lying down in many of his scenes. Paul gets most of the screen time, but Zoe, Sasha and Ken (Michael Sirow, Primal, Jack Goes Home) get most of the action scenes.
Fortress: Sniper’s Eye is a major step down in script and execution from the first film. And if the title had you expecting a tense sniper’s duel or a scene where our heroes are pinned down by one forget it, we don’t even get that much excitement from this film.
Lionsgate will release Fortress: Sniper’s Eye to Digital and VOD platforms on April 29th. Blu-ray and DVD release is set for June 7th. And if that isn’t quite what you’re looking for, FilmTagger has some suggestions.