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Sniper 2 (2002) Review

Sniper 2 was directed by Craig R. Baxley (Under Pressure, Stone Cold), written by Ron Mita (24 Hours to Live) and Jim McClain (Superfights), and stars Tom Berenger (Sniper, The Most Dangerous Game), Bokeem Woodbine (In the Shadow of the Moon, The Runner), Erika Marozsan (Feast of Love, Rokonok), Tamas Puskas (The Song of Names, Max), Ferenc Kovacs (8MM 2, Captain Alatriste), Barna Illyes (Chameleon, Tactical Assault), and Peter Linka (Born Again, Svik). It follows a sniper and spotter as they traverse a hostile Serbian city to reach safety after assassinating a genocidal Serbian general.

The Plot: 1993’s franchise starter may have done a lot of things proficiently, but its plot was largely threadbare. It’d be a bad idea to assume a DTV sequel would change things, and Sniper 2 makes no effort to do so.

A decade has passed since Beckett (Berenger) was discharged from the Marines for a wound he sustained in the first movie, but that doesn’t stop the CIA from proposing another mission for the man since he’s still a crack shot, and this would be off the books. Flimsily justified, but Beckett is back in the ghillie suit so who’s complaining? The agency wants Serbian general Valstoria (Linka) dead before conflict arises. Beckett gets paired up with Cole (Woodbine) as his spotter and the mission commences. It’s another workmanlike startup for another workmanlike story.

Sniper 2 B

Undercover now, the men make contact with partisan informant Sophia (Marozsan) and make their way to a good perch, whereupon they take out Valstoria. Mita and McClain recycle the civil war approach from the first movie and, while they don’t improve on the idea, they do stick with it.

Escaping is the hard part of the mission, and it’s complicated when Cole is captured, forcing Beckett to double back and work with Sophia and her brothers Zoran (Kovacs) and Vojislav (Illyes) to rescue him and dissident Pavel (Puskas) and finally exit the country. Having Cole get captured feels like an artificial way to limit the locations used here, and a twist surrounding the CIA’s plan is predictable too, making the roundabout a misfire.

It’s got more ideas than the first movie, but the story here isn’t any better, and thanks to a hokey ending, it may be slightly lower tier overall.

The Characters: Benefits are almost always present in sequels, in the regard of characters anyway. While the writers got the essence of the lead correct, Sniper 2’s supporting cast is poorly defined.

Since the loss of his trigger finger and dismissal from the service, Beckett has struggled to hold down a job and break his old habits, though it’s hard to believe that he’d want to. His attitudes are still the same, distrusting of civilians and feds alike, and distant from any new partners – for a time at least. Beckett only wants his rank back, but since the CIA gives it to him before he even leaves for the mission, any arc is out of reach; this isn’t as much of a problem though, since the dialogue is good, and the character has already been well established.

Sniper 2 D

Killing a superior officer has put Cole on death row, and he’s taking the mission for the promise of freedom. That alone is a bit rote, and it doesn’t get better since, aside from his ogling of Sophia and his ability to calculate shots from a distance, there’s not much to him. He doesn’t get the same back and forth that Miller got in the first movie, leaving Woodbine to try and make something out of nothing.

Partisanship and blood connect the Serbian characters, but they too are left out to dry. With the movie either unwilling or unable to showcase the supposed atrocities that Valstoria has committed, it’s hard to rally behind their cause; not helping matters is the lack of kinship on-screen, which would’ve at least given a reason to care about the individuals, if not their rebellion.

The Thrills: Experienced in the stunts and second unit field, Baxley has a leg up in the action-oriented sequences, but the stresses of navigating a city overflowing with combatants are largely absent. Sniper 2 isn’t without its heightened moments, but it lacks the tension of the first.

For being the catalyst of a large militarized force out on the hunt, the initial assassination of Valstoria doesn’t bear much weight. Sniper 2 does thankfully do the requisite variable accounting (wind speed, distance, even the target’s height), but the conclusion is foregone since we know that Beckett is still the best of the best. A critical omission of stakes makes it stale; if the shot isn’t taken, nothing changes – and when it is – there’s no urgency shown from the enemy as they continue to stand in the open with mouths agape.

Sniper 2 A

Chase sequences fare better than the sniping does. The first escape attempt from the city is a strong display of Baxley’s background, with Beckett and Cole attempting to blend into a crowd on a tram, only to be pointed out and forced to break cover, taking over and crashing the tram in the process. On the other hand, the second escape attempt is almost lifeless. Sure, there is a tank and a couple of explosions, but the lives of the leads never feel jeopardized since they aren’t alone; instead, they are surrounded by expendable nothing characters.

Where Sniper fumbled its finale by doubling up on scenarios, Sniper 2 surprisingly learns from the mistake. Their secondary extraction point is in the middle of a destroyed town that could be filled with infantry, but with the hostiles finally closing in, the duo and their package have to take the chance. It’s here where the movie has most of its marksman moments, and they’re not extraordinarily done, but there’s a sense of paranoia to the setting that was missing in the prior scenes; it doesn’t make up for the lesser 65 preceding minutes, but there’s nothing to scoff at here.

The Technics: Being a direct-to-video sequel to a long-since relevant property noticeably reduced the budget and allowance for elaborate set pieces, but Sniper 2 is competently made and boasts a few impressive moments on its own.

Baxley’s direction isn’t up to snuff here. Although not a particularly stylish helmer when handed a decent amount of money, his direction feels minimal with generic cinematography during and in between setpieces, no added flair to the titular activity like the bullet-tracking shots in the first, and a muddy look. It may have just been a paycheck gig for the man.

Sniper 2 F

Sound design was a highlight of the first entry, with each shot from the snipers emphasized via added volume and impact, and the ambient sounds of the tropical jungle on full display to add a sense of place to what could’ve been monotonous greenery. Sniper 2 lacks the punctuation that made each kill memorable and is a weirdly quiet movie despite the huge numbers of Serbian soldiers on the lookout for those responsible for killing their leader. There’s a competence to the construction, but it seems no one on the crew wanted to go the extra mile.

While it’s not an awful movie, Sniper 2 is pallid and pales in comparison to its progenitor. It does a good job at shaking the dust off of the Thomas Beckett character and has occasional highlights, but it’s a good example of an inessential sequel.

Sniper 2 is available on DVD and Digital from Sony Pictures, and FilmTagger has a few suggestions for something similar.

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