The Austin Chronicle


Directed by Luis Llosa. Starring Tom Berenger, Billy Zane, J.t. Walsh.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Feb. 5, 1993

One's a Marine. The other's a National Security Council comer. Both are sharpshooters but one has over 70 kills to his name and the other has merely his reputation as an Olympic marksman. They're the classic, mismatched Odd Couple thrown together in the Panamanian jungle on a mission to eliminate a powerful rebel leader and his Colombian financier drug lord. The basic story is a familiar one. The older Marine sniper, Tom Beckett (Berenger -- who has, of late, become curiously at home in a number of military roles; witness Platoon and Born on the Fourth of July), recovers some of his lost humanity through his forced relationship with the younger and unproven NSC hotdog, Richard Miller (Zane), who jockeyed for the assignment as a means of increasing his job status. Beckett's so skillful at taking out targets that his passion is all but dead and Miller's so green that he brings his “Gucci-flage” designer fatigues down to the jungle with him. You know, however, that before things are through they will learn mutual respect and trust. Sniper does little that's terribly original but that which it does, it does with great competence and grace. Its guerrilla strategies and maneuvers are interesting to watch and the jungle itself looms alternately as a tangle of protective cover and disorienting maze. The movie is shot primarily in tracking close-ups that give it an extremely visceral feel, as though the whole thing is being seen through the cross hairs of a weapon. Best of all, is this knock-out, though overused, optical effect of a bullet hurtling and whizzing through space toward its target. Sniper is sure to appeal to armchair assassins and fantasy war-gamers. Beyond that audience, Peruvian director Llosa's American debut will appeal to anyone interested in well-made and well-acted pictures that compensate with skill for what they may lack in inspiration.

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