He’s Watching Your Six.
Sniper: Special Ops is a Fred Olen Ray directed military action film, that is completely unrelated to the Tom Berenger/Billy Zane series. We start with Steven Seagal as Sergeant Jake Chandler, crack-shot sniper, laying down protective cover fire for an assault led by Sergeant Vic Mosby (Tim Abell). Their mission is to rescue a Congressman and return him to the local outpost, but the team come under enemy fire from the local Taliban insurgents. Sgt. Mosby and his team escape but Sgt. Chandler is stuck behind with a wounded soldier. The Colonel refuses a rescue mission at this time due to a lack of manpower, instead sending the team on a different sort of rescue mission; retrieve a stuck Hummer full of much needed ammunition and supplies. But the team get more than they expected when they learn about the civilian - and her baby - that they have to escort as well.
Let’s get this out of the way. This is not a Steven Seagal film. Hell, this is not even a Van Dam film. This is Tim Abell’s starring vehicle, and a fine job he does with it too. I thought he was a believable Seargent who could use his brain and was capable in a battle. Tim is not new to military action films either, having had roles in 2012’s Soldiers of Fortune, 2003’s Special Forces directed by Isaac Florentine, and 2002’s We Were Soldiers starring Mel Gibson. He comes across comfortable in military fatigues and was enjoyable to watch in action. It is a shame he was not credited on the cover as such.
This is, without a doubt, Steven Seagal at his laziest. He is barely in this movie and when he is, he is basically motionless. A Steven Statue. No martial arts. No patented Steven Slap-fu. He might be on the cover but this is actually bait-and-switch territory, folks. Sure in the past he has been so lazy he has had somebody else dub his lines in ADR, but to be frank he doesn’t HAVE enough lines in Sniper: Special Ops to require any ADR. At the 12 and a half minute mark, he finally gets off his arse and enters a proper firefight, however he quickly resumes the sitting position thereafter. Honestly it became a running joke for me, so I itemised his appearances:
- Opening scene - Sniper Seagal doing his thing. Gets attacked, holds up in abandoned building. Wait for it, I assume this is building to something
- 16 minutes - Seagal in chair
- 32 minutes - Seagal still in chair
- 35 minutes - Seagal goes to get some water
- 47 minutes - Returns with water, goes back to chair
- 58 minutes - Oh shit, this is a Steven Seagal film isn’t it? I forgot. Yup, STILL in that chair
- 1:17 - Seagal pulls himself off the chair to engage in another short firefight - from the safety of the roof (he is a sniper after all) before managing to get the final photo and line of the movie (see highlight at the end of the review).
As for Rob Van Dam, his character was no standout. He could have been any of the other non-Tim Abell grunts. He was fine and worked with what he was given, but did not deserve second billing over Tim Abell who ran the whole thing. I’m fairly disappointed in the way this film was marketed. I understand Seagal’s billing, but is Van Dam actually big enough to warrant second bill? I wouldn’t have thought so. His only “real" cinematic pictures were Gary Daniel’s Bloodmoon, Wrong Side of Town and 3 Headed Shark Attack (snigger). I suppose WWE fans might be more receptive to him.
And who would the Colonel be in the film? None other than Dale Dye star of Platoon, Saving Private Ryan, JFK, Rules of Engagement, and Seagal’s own classics Under Siege and Under Siege 2: Dark Territory (I wonder what Dale thinks about working on a modern Seagal film?). He doesn’t get much to work with, but that’s as a Colonel is on the field - issue some commands and stay in your tent. The other character of note is NATO correspondent Janet (Charlene Amoia) who plays the cliched daughter-of-the-Admiral, allowed to photograph the missions because daddy runs the whole show. She is a little annoying but her character grows during the film and the animosity between her and Sgt. Mosby is calmed when she proves herself in a shootout with the Taliban forces. She is way more important to the story than Ol’ Steve is.
So despite the lack of Seagal, is the film any good? Actually, yes. I found Sniper: Special Ops to be pretty engaging for a film that spends half its running time mulling around an armoured vehicle trying to get it repaired. There was a enough firefights and stealth mission work to keep me glued, and the subplot about the Afghani civilian and her baby was handled well. Plenty of military jargon speak (“Playtime is definitely over, I repeat - Playtime is definitely over!”) that I found amusing as well.
What the film did NOT need... was Steven Seagal. His “rescue me” subplot was completely redundant to the picture until the last fifteen minutes, and they could have written it out entirely. You know those Godfrey Ho cut-and-paste Ninja films, where Richard Harrison is spliced into some random Hong Kong crime drama, wearing a red bandana that says NINJA on it? That’s basically Seagal’s role in this film. You could not phone in a role more than he did here. He shoots a few guys early on, babysits an injured man for 75 minutes then ends by shooting a few more guys and winking at the camera. C’mon, Steve.
Worth a watch, for Tim Abell. As for Steven Seagal? Let’s hope he has more to work with in the upcoming Killing Salazar.
An enjoyable, by-the-numbers minor war-action film with a lack of Seagal doing anything but ending the film with a priceless line:
Janet: “Are you really as good as they say you are?”
Jake, removing sunglasses for the first time of the film: “Every once in a while."