The Sniper Series Revisited

It’s hard to believe that this series has gone on for 27 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; so let’s take a look back at all 8 films so you can get familiar with the world of the Becketts.

Sniper (1993)

Plot: US Marine sniper Thomas Scott is accompanied with marksman, Richard Miller in the Panamanian forest. There, they must eliminate a rebel leader using sniper techniques and skills.

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 all these 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)

Plot: The CIA recruits Thomas Beckett (Tom Berenger), a former Marine sniper who lost his trigger finger but can still fire a weapon with an unorthodox technique, to assassinate a Serbian military leader. His help includes Cole (Bokeem Woodbine), an ex-con and Army sniper, and Serbian freedom fighter Sophia (Erika Marozsán). While the killing goes as planned, the general’s soldiers manage to track down the fleeing team. Cole is captured, but Beckett formulates a plan to free him.

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)

Plot: Tom Beckett, a lethal sniper, is hired by the CIA to travel to Ho Chi Minh City and eliminate a merciless drug dealer. However, Tom finds out that the drug dealer is an old friend of his.

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)

Plot: Brandon Beckett and his men are attacked by a sniper while on a mission to rescue a farmer. Brandon seeks his father’s protege’s help to avenge the deaths of his men.

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)

Plot: Brandon is made to believe that his father has been killed by an assassin. However, when his father saves him from an ambush, he realises that he is being used by his superiors to lure the killer.

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)

Plot: A team of snipers has to foil the attempts of a terrorist group planning to sabotage a gas pipeline. However, a ghost shooter, who has all possible information on the snipers, makes them his target.

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.


Sniper: Ultimate Kill (2017) Review

Plot: Agent Kate Estrada and Marine sniper Brandon Beckett are sent to Colombia to kill an assassin and capture a notorious drug lord.

Review: The Sniper series is one of the few franchises that has been consistently entertaining; it started with Tom Berenger as the lead Thomas Beckett and he has essentially now passed the torch to his on-screen son Brandon Beckett Jr. playing by Chad Michael Collins. Sniper: Ultimate Kill may be one of my favourite entries in the series not just because of the R rated action but also the human element.

Where Beckett Senior and Junior have thus far been quite distant on an emotional level, their relationship changes in this movie and we finally see Thomas Beckett Sr. emote in a way we have never seen. He can see his own mortality now and he wants to spend more time with his son; he even breaks down during one scene in a moving moment with his son whereas Brandon is wondering what life holds in store for him if he continues on the path of a sniper.

The story is also tense as Beckett Jr. is called into Columbia to take down a vicious drug dealer. This is arguably the most violent entry of the series which is no bad thing; we have some of the most brutal kills to date with heads being blown apart and faces literally exploding. I was cheering at those points which is probably why I’ll die alone but I’ve long since made peace with that.

Anyway, as usual with the Sniper series there is little to no noticeable CGI with the action done practically and there are several impressive set-pieces. There are some choice one-liners too courtesy of Billy Zane who always had the best dialogue in the series. His banter with Thomas Beckett is one of the highlights as this is the first time we finally get to see them onscreen together since the first movie.

Series newcomer Danay Garcia plays the tough as nails cop Kate Estrada and is a welcome addition to the cast and is someone I would like to see return to the series. Although they don’t get together you can tell she and Brandon hit it off and a relationship could bloom in future entries.

In terms of flaws, there are some elements that are predictable including the identity of the mole, which was pretty obvious as soon as they were on-screen.

Overall, Sniper: Ultimate Kill once again delivers solid action with the cast on sparkling form and some quality violence making this one of the best in the series.

Sniper: Assassin’s End (2020) Review

Plot: Legendary sniper Thomas Beckett and his son, Special Ops Sniper Brandon Beckett, are on the run from the CIA, Russian Mercenaries, and a Yakuza-trained assassin with sniper skills that rival both legendary sharp shooters.

Review: I love the Sniper movies and it’s hard to believe this is a franchise that has lasted nearly 30 years. It started out with Tom Berenger as the lead Thomas Beckett who is one of the best sharpshooters in the business. Over the past few years he has become more of a supporting character with Chad Michael Collins taking over the lead as his son Brandon Beckett.

Sniper: Assassin’s End is arguably the most stylish entry to date with director Kaare Andrews giving it a nice and glossy visual sheen. John Wick has a lot to answer for (in a good way) as so many action films now are going for more hand to hand fight scenes, cool lighting and impressive camera trickery.

Assassin’s End has some of the best visual moments of the series with one scene having a showdown in a forest and the screen splits into 3 sections in one of the smoothest transitions I’ve seen. This may be straight to video fare but it doesn’t look it as everything is nicely shot.

It almost feels like a sort of reboot with some new cast members Lady Death (Sayaka Akimoto) and Zero (Ryan Robbins) who are welcome additions and I wouldn’t be surprised if there are potential spin-offs in the future. Sayaka Akimoto is awesome as the evil sniper who is charged with setting up Brandon to make it look like he has assassinated a prominent political figure, but everything may not be as it seems.

Chad Michael Collins has really made the role of Brandon his own and I would love to see him in bigger budget movies as well in the future as he’s believable in this kind of role.

There are some nice father/son scenes between Brandon and Thomas in this movie giving us a little more backstory on Thomas so he still has his own demons to get over.

In terms of flaws story wise this is quite similar to Angel Has Fallen or The Fugitive so it’s familiar stuff but it has a few twists and turns to keep you guessing. I found the pacing dragged a little in the middle after an impressive opening 20 minutes too. It doesn’t have the budget or big explosions like some of the earlier entries, but these are the times we’re in so I’m just happy we’re still getting R-rated fare this good. There are some quality headshots in this movie (as there should be in film about snipers) so genre fans shouldn’t be disappointed.

After watching the movie I’m still not entirely sure why this is called Assassin’s End but I’ll say no more at this point.

Overall, Sniper: Assassin’s End is another solid entry in this consistently entertaining series and every scene with Thomas and Brandon on screen together a clear highlight; it’s not short on style and Sayaka Akimoto makes for a badass new addition to the cast.