It’s hard to believe that this series has gone on for over 20 years and is still going strong; the Sniper movies began with Tom Berenger as Master Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Beckett, a gruff military sniper who is a grizzled loner that likes to do things his way.
Then in 2011 Chad Michael Collins took over as Beckett’s son Brandon who is a worthy replacement; Berenger’s last entry in the series (so far) was reuniting with his on-screen son for the 2014 film Sniper: Legacy.
So let’s take a look back at all 6 films so you can get familiar with the world of the Becketts.
Master Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Beckett (Tom Beregner) is a sniper stationed in Panama. Although skilled, he has lost several men under his command. Beckett is teamed up with a SWAT member named Miller (Billy Zane), who has not earned any confirmed kills, to eliminate a top Panamanian rebel leader. Tensions emerge between the two on how to conduct the mission, coupled with running into numerous challenges throughout.
This is the movie that started off a surprising franchise that has lasted for literally decades and even after watching it again recently it was still pretty damn awesome.
It oozes tension from start to finish and remains a thoroughly entertaining thriller. This is arguably Tom Berenger’s finest role as he is unbelievably cool as Thomas Beckett but he also makes the character feel authentic. Billy Zane is excellent as his rather arrogant new sidekick Richard Miller; both of them verbally spar with each other throughout the film which just adds to the over arching tension.
It’s briskly paced and flies by in no time with plenty of decent action, although there isn’t anything all that spectacular. It’s a smaller affair than you may expect and is more about the characters rather than cit destroying explosions but that’s no bad thing in my book.
Sniper has a strong script making everything feel believable; it’s not filled with one-liners and (like the rest of the series) lacks sentimentality.
The last 20 minutes are ridiculously tense with Beckett ending up getting captured/tortured and Miller is (rather predictably) forced to rescue him, despite their previous problems.
Gary Chang provides an awesome soundtrack which sounds a bit like his previous score for Death Warrant in places but with more orchestral pieces.
After 23 years Sniper still holds up as a solid military action thriller with a great lead in Berenger and some quality action scenes.
SNIPER 2 (2002)
Tom Berenger returns in this rather excellent first sequel; this time an ex-con called Cole (Bokeem Woodbine) joins him in the fray as they assassinate a Serbian dictator and get stuck behind enemy lines.
What I liked about this entry was how our hero Thomas Beckett is a man who has really been through it; his eyesight isn’t what it once was, he’s lost his trigger finger and we find out more about his personal history. Berenger is perfect as Beckett and is totally believable as the jaded, gruff and cynical sniper.
I really like the tone of these movies too; they tell more realistic stories of snipers rather than what can be cheesy “God Bless America” type movies. In this world the soldiers know the government are assholes who will betray you at the drop of a hat but they do their jobs anyway. Becket is also challenged in his way of life by a man they rescue called Pavel (Tamás Puskás) who says there is always an alternative to killing
The action is incredibly slick; this was back in 2002 when we still got thing like real explosions and blood squibs so no CGI to ruin things.
It’s just under 90 minutes long and very well paced; sure, the story isn’t anything all that new but when it’s all so slick I had no complaints. It also has quite a downbeat ending which is emotional but never sentimental.
Directed by Craig R. Baxley, I consider him one of the more underrated action directors out there as he also made the classic Stone Cold with Brian Bosworth.
If I was nit-picking I would say that it lacks a truly memorable villain but I did enjoy the sniper who hunts them in the second half of the movie. I couldn’t even tell you the character’s name though which pretty much says it all.
Sniper 2 is a worthy sequel with some great action scenes and decent performances from the entire cast. Berenger owns the role on Beckett and Bokeem Woodbine is a welcome addition too.
Sniper 3 (2004)
The third entry in the series has Beckett recruited by the CIA to go to Ho Chi Minh City and take out a ruthless drug dealer who turns out to be an old war friend he thought was dead. Although not quite as good as the first two movies in the series Sniper 3 still has plenty going for it; once again it’s a straight to DVD film that doesn’t look it; the action is well shot and still uses blood squibs and real explosions.
It also has Byron Mann join Beckett as a cop called Quan who also works for the CIA; I’ve always been a big fan of Byron Mann who brings an intensity to every role. In tis you aren’t quite sure if he is going to be a good or bad guy which keeps things interesting.
The acting in general is strong with Berenger’s world weary Beckett falling apart at the seams as palsy starts to take hold of his hands so he may not be the great shot he once was. It’s also quite cool to see more of his backstory from Vietnam which was only ever touched on before.
What this movie also finally has is a (relatively) decent villain in Finnegan (John Doman) who doesn’t have all that much to do but we at least remember the character’s name and the fact that he was former friend to Beckett makes the story more compelling.
This is a bit slower paced than the earlier two movies and the first half is a little dull but once Beckett comes face to face with Finnegan then the action really kicks in. This is also the first time where we get some hand to hand combat with Quan facing off with a nameless goon but impaling him quite satisfactorily with a large stick/spear.
I like the line where during the final confrontation with Finnegan Beckett says “Whenever I kill a man it’s because he needs killing. I take a look at his life and if it adds up to nothing I take him out. You got to liking it.”
I think that’s interesting as Beckett still keeps doing it so maybe he does like it but isn’t being honest with himself.
Sniper 3 is a little slow to get going but the story has a few twists and turns with some solid action scenes and Berenger still looking tired of the world which works perfectly for the character of Beckett.
Sniper: Reloaded (2011)
This is the first entry which doesn’t have Tom Berenger return as Thomas Beckett; instead we are introduced to his son Brandon Beckett played by Chad Michael Collins. He’s a worth replacement for Berenger and his younger age gives him more energetic action scenes. Sniper: reloaded is arguably my favourite of the Sniper sequels mostly because I love anything that is set in Africa.
One of my favourite aspects of this series is the international feel; each film looks unique and takes place in a different part of the world giving an almost James Bond style vibe. It’s what keeps the movies fresh and as this entry is genuinely filmed in Africa it provides more authenticity to the action.
When Beckett is shot by a mysterious sniper he takes it upon himself to hunt the culprit down taking him on an adventure through the Congo where no one can be trusted. I had an idea of which direction the story was going but my theory was wrong and it ended up being more surprising so I was happy to be proven wrong.
This was the second movie with Billy Zane who has some choice one-liners and adds some levity to the film. He trains Beckett that he needs to become a sniper in order to stop one but Beckett thinks he doesn’t need that kind of discipline.
Once again considering this is a straight to DVD film it has first rate production values and never looks cheap. It’s glossily shot and Africa looks fantastic.
Sniper: Legacy (2014)
This is the one we’ve all been waiting for where we finally get to see Tom Berenger and Chad Michael Collins on screen together as father and son. In Sniper: Legacy a rogue assassin is taking out military leaders, and Brandon gets word that his father is one. He tries to track down the killer, finds out that his father isn’t dead and realizes that his superior officers are using him as bait to track the killer.
What this movie has in its favour is the best villain of the series; a psychotic sniper called Smitty who feels he has been betrayed by his own people.
There are some stunning locales in this movie including Santorini, Greece which is one of the most beautiful places in the world. Most of the action takes place in “Syria” but I believe it’s Bulgaria but either way it looks authentic enough and there is plenty of action. This entry in the series has a few nice pieces of hand to hand combat which is always a welcome addition but also has the best kill scene of the entire series.
*Spoiler alert* OK so Brandon is being held at gunpoint by our villain Smitty after a good dust up but what said bad guy doesn’t know is that Beckett senior is watching. He pulls the trigger blowing Smitty’s arm clean off; as he stands there for a second in agony Beckett shoots him again blowing the back of his head off. Good times!
In fact here is the video below; it’s in French but I’ll allow it as the dialogue doesn’t matter.
Legacy is another massively entertaining entry in the series; it’s a shame we don’t get to see more of the two Beckett’s kicking ass together but it’s still good.
Sniper: Ghost Shooter (2016)
The most recent (but not final) entry in the Sniper series has Brandon return (but sadly no Thomas) and this time he and a small group are assigned to protect an oil pipeline. Things do not go smoothly of course and Beckett believes they have been betrayed by someone on the inside.
The action takes place mostly in Bulgaria but there are a few scenes in Turkey as well so the film keeps that international flavour alive which remains one of the highpoints of the series.
Billy Zane is also back as Richard Miller who now works with Beckett (despite being totally absent from the last movie) and still has some choice lines.
Didn’t they say at the end of Legacy that Beckett would be spending more time with his father? Hopefully we get one more entry with the two Becketts busting some serious heads.
Once again considering that the movie has a pretty low budget the action is nicely done with some decent shoot-outs and Brandon having a few fist fights.
So there we have it; 6 movies in the Sniper series and I have to say that it has been a consistently entertaining franchise and I look forward to seeing where they go next with future entries. The next movie in the series will be called Sniper: Homeland Security and has been filming on Colombia.