For some reason, this film was overlooked by the Oscars and Golden Globes. The reason is a mystery. Is it because the nominal star is Steven Seagal, even though he’s in a secondary role? Is it because it was done on a keg-of-beer budget and dumped direct to DVD?
Or might it simply be the quality of the show? We leave the decision to the reader, but we commend the movie to Seagal completists, assuming there is such a thing.
Our intention was to review another bad (but not this bad) sniper movie, the Belarusian WWII-story production Sniper: Weapon of Retaliation. But the DVD went tango uniform and we didn’t make it to the end, so we reluctantly unwrapped Sniper: Special Ops and slipped it in to our DVD player.
Oh, the humanity!
Acting and Production
Steven Seagal is not at his best in this show; he’s old now, and out of shape (we can relate), and he never takes his sunglasses off… was he hung over on the couple of days that they shot all his scenes?
Although he’s in the film at the beginning and end, he’s not really the leading actor. That’s a guy named Tim Abell, of whom we can’t recall hearing a word, but who isn’t really bad. Abell plays Victor Mosby, a Special Forces or SOF NCO whose team has the mission of clearing an abandoned village. His performance (both acting and physical) is definitely the strongest in the film. Seagal’s character, Chandler, and a young guy are the sniper team providing overwatch for Mosby’s doorkickers.
Chandler does not do any of Seagal’s signature fighting moves; rather than kicking ass, he seems to be maxed out and out of breath climbing — or descending — stairs, which is about as physical as he gets in this show. The DVD box, read at a glance, credits Seagal and Van Damme but if you read it, it’s actually Van Dam — Rob Van Dam, who has a tertiary role.
Dale Dye makes an appearance in his usual role, the ever-older World’ Oldest Lieutenant Colonel. (He’s got to be in his mid-seventies by now, and it’s great to see him working; here’s hoping the check cleared).
The movie has the overall gestalt of a 1950 B-movie Western, exacerbated by using the usual Western movie ranch with a little quasi-Afghan set dressing, with hooded “Afghan” extras in the role of sacrificial hadji mooks, complete with the interpreter as Kit Carson scout, the “plucky journalist” (Charlene Amoia, who does the best she can with leaden lines) as the obligatory woman-on-the-frontier, the supply wagon stranded in Indian territory, and the mysterious Indian princess who’s key to the whole thing.
Accuracy and Weapons
A half-assed job was done on the sets, uniforms and equipment. Here’s a close-up showing that Tim Abell’s rifle — the only one that appears to fire on automatic — is a converted Colt Sporter SP1. (Receiver profile is the give away). Abell’s weapons-handling is skilled and natural; he’s an Army NCO veteran, and both a scroll (2nd Battalion, before Regiment existed) and tab Ranger.
Note the truck in the background is a 1960s vintage M35. Yeah, they got that wrong.
Someone did train the actors on firearms, because they do seem comfortable with them. (Dye again, probably).
It seems that some of the firearms were airsoft or dummies, and the muzzle blasts were CGI’d in. It wasn’t terrible, unlike the explosions (yep, fireballs).
Neither the CQB nor the sniping is remotely realistic. And the “Taliban” or ISIL enemies? They seem to be the same guys from martial arts movies, whose brain housing groups are so deficient that they attack one at a time.
Despite being elite supreme ninja super pipe hitters, neither the good guys or bad guys can hit much of anything, so most firefight are a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, hitting nothing. The exception is the reporter chick, who picks up an M9 and proceeds to waste bad guys at 50 yards range, while the good and bad guys are blazing away ineffectually at each other with M4s and AKs respectively.
Also, the reporterette says at one time to Abell’s, remember, she is supposed to be addressing a special ops guy whose life includes lots and lots of trigger time on the range, “I’m qualified as an expert. Are you?” That shuts him up. (We’re guessing Ranger Abell was thinking of the paycheck, and biting his tongue).
The tactics sometimes approach laughable, but from the other side. For instance, a guy is sent to run across an open area to the next available cover, one of the ancient Vietnam vet deuce-and-a-halfs. “Start running, then we’ll cover you.” And he starts, and then they do. We won’t tell you the spoiler of what happens next, but you can probably guess.
At one climactic point, there’s a plot twist that’s so implausible we laughed aloud. Even the dog.
The bottom line
At 2 DVDs for $5, we figured, how can we lose with Sniper: Special Ops? Well, we watched it and there went an hour and a half or so of our finite and dwindling lifespan. That’s how.
For more information
These sites relate to this particular film.
- Amazon.com DVD page:
It’s also available as a digital rental/sale product:
- IMDB page:
- IMFDB page:
- Rotten Tomatoes review page (85%):
- Infogalactic page: (none)
- History vs. Hollywood Page. (n/a).