In the dense jungles of Panama, US Marine Corps marksmen are regularly assigned the task of assassinating various political or criminal figures selected by the National Security Council. With a plausible premise and good attention to detail, SNIPER focuses on the tension between veteran
sharp-shooter Sergeant Tom Beckett (Tom Berenger), and an inexperienced but ambitious newcomer, Richard Miller (Billy Zane). They, in turn, are hunted by another skilled assassin.
Though Beckett has killed more than 70 people, he has a code of honor: he makes sure innocents don't get hurt and sticks by his buddies. Miller replaces Corporal Papich, (Aden Young), Beckett's trusted longtime partner, who's killed as the two men rendezvous with the helicopter dispatched to
pick them up after a successful mission. Miller has won an Olympic medal for his marksmanship, but he's a civilian close to the leadership of the enigmatic National Security Council--a star chamber presided over by big shots representing the White House, State Department and Joint Chiefs of
Staff--rather than a soldier. The assignment is to murder a political officer backed by drug-cartel money, and Miller is told he outranks Beckett and moreover, that Beckett should be considered expendable. It's soon clear that Miller is as green as grass; when his helicopter comes under rebel
fire, he can barely assemble his sniper-rifle, let alone defend himself. In the confusion, it appears that he's actually shot a rebel, but Beckett is wise to him.
As befits his role as master-sniper, Beckett is a loner; he's isolated from the life of the Marine Corps camp, and in a nice touch, his room is decorated with reproductions of Eastern art. Distrustful of the NSC and patronizing towards Miller, Beckett begins deviating from the plan as soon as
Miller arrives, and to win the assistance of local Indians, Beckett agrees to kill an ex-CIA agent with a penchant for torture, El Cirujano ("the surgeon," played by Ken Radley). Miller is skeptical and fails to make a clean kill; the angry locals refuse to help. The assignment doesn't go
smoothly, tensions between the men escalate, and El Cirujano shows up to complicate matters. Beckett winds up in El Cirujano's hands, and it's up to the younger man both to free his mentor and to fulfill his duties as a heavily camouflaged white knight.
SNIPER has some of the faults of the classic melodrama; the honorable man of professional talent is played against the obvious antagonists in both high places and low, with no room for ambiguity. Still, the heroics are almost within reason and there are nice trekking and hiding-in-the-jungle
details. Beckett's duel with another expert is suspenseful, and the wondrous camouflage ghillie suit is demonstrated very nicely for all would-be mercenary professionals. A number of scenes have been shot by cinematographer Bill Butler as if through a rifle scope, producing a striking bullet's-eye
view of the proceedings. (Violence, profanity.)
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- Released: 1993
- Rating: R
- Review: In the dense jungles of Panama, US Marine Corps marksmen are regularly assigned the task of assassinating various political or criminal figures selected by the National Security Council. With a plausible premise and good attention to detail, SNIPER focuses… (more)