Sniper: Special Ops (2016)

Well, well, well… Look who the great B-Movie Poop Chute delivered to the feet of this website. The one, the only Rob Van Dam…

Er… I mean Steven Seagal.

Yes, finally, it’s time for me to break the seal on some of the more recent works of Mr. Seagal. But, we’re not dealing with top shelf Seagal, oh no. This is post-2000, direct-to-video, deeply disturbing dark black goatee-wearin’ Steven Seagal. We’re going to look at Sniper: Special Ops.

I suppose I should also make it known this movie is made by schlockmeister Fred Olen Ray.

Fred Olen Ray is a guy who could fill an entire year of content on this site. I believe I mentioned that previously when I covered his Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers. As much as I could say more about him, I just… I just can’t. I have to dedicate all this preamble to Steven Seagal. Look, I have no real beef with Seagal. However, I also have no real appreciation for his movies. I kid you not, I’ve seen exactly one of his movies – Executive Decision. You know, the one he died in so Kurt Russell could take over the movie and make it better? I’ve not seen his generally well-regarded movies like Above the Law, Hard to Kill, Marked for Death, Out for Justice, or either of his Under Siege films.

“But, Geoff, ” I can hear you say, “what makes you someone to comment on his career if you haven’t given him a chance?”

Ah, well, you see, it’s quite simple – it’s my website. Here’s the skinny, my lovelies. Again, I have no beef with Seagal, in principal, but I saw all those trailers for those films I listed off that I didn’t go see. It’s not really my cup of tea when it comes to action. The same can be said about Jean-Claude Van Damme. I’ve seen some of JCVD’s flicks, but not too many of the popular ones from the early 90s. These types of action films really weren’t my style. I’m a James Bond kinda guy. I like my action heroes to be classy. Or Kurt Russell. Or Sylvester Stallone. Or Arnold Schwarzenegger. All those guys have a certain charisma that give them the appeal that I just don’t see in Seagal or JCVD’s movies’ trailers.

I think I had a bit of rejection over the machismo of that era of movies. Stone faced guys who would just as soon kick the shit out of you as they would reading the Wendy’s menu in the drive-thru. Stallone and Schwarzenegger had chiseled expressions and faces, but they knew exactly who they were and why people liked them. They could lighten up even in serious movies. JCVD probably could too, but I never felt all that impressed by most of the previews I’d see form his movies.

Steven Seagal is a horse of a completely different color to me. In fact, that horse is a color that I’m fairly sure only exists in H.P. Lovecraft’s imagination. There was always this vibe from Seagal that felt off-putting. Again, I have no real beef with the guy, but in several of his movies it felt like he was eschewing a side to his personality that would allow for him to be warm and friendly in favor of living some sort of a code that would likely be punctuated by his hand chopping you in the fucking throat before he tossed you onto a sea of spikes. His mannerisms, his expressions, his quiet tone of voice, and his soapbox preaching that some films had was cold and completely uninteresting to me as a filmgoer.

And then he got a little weird.

Stories abound about how he would handle action sequences in his films over the last 20 years. He gained weight and therefore couldn’t move quite like he used to. He’d request to change detailed fight choreography so he could remain sitting or with the least amount of movement as he could get away with. All the while, he had also been oft-accused of hitting stuntmen while filming. No shit, or, maybe all the shit, it’s alleged that Gene LeBell, the stunt coordinator for Out for Justice, allegedly got into a fight with Seagal over the treatment of his stunt crew. Seagal said that his aikido training prevents him from being choked unconscious. LeBell was up for proving him wrong and Seagal allowed it. In short order, LeBell choked him out and Seagal shit his pants.

That’s funny shit.

Later on, he got into music because he is an avid guitar player and collector of instruments owned by several big time names. He’s been long affiliated with law enforcement. He’s taught deputies martial arts, unarmed combat, and marksmanship. Of course, he also had a TV show called Steven Seagal: Lawman which, well, it didn’t exactly put him or the officers who worked with him on that show in a very good light. There was a botched raid that led to a dead 11-month old puppy and frightened children of a suspect. Not exactly a stellar example of cops being friends to people.

He’s had a shockingly high number of misconduct allegations from women on the set of his movies. He’s a pal and supporter of Vladimir Putin (having co-citizenship in Russia, United States, and Serbia). He often dresses in silky outfits that you normally see people wear in training montages in kung fu movies. He sometimes maybe even wears things that look more like muumuus. He has a shit ton of swords in a collection and he sometimes gives them out to leaders of countries as he did with Maduro of Venezuela. At one point in time, he would have a custom-made gun delivered to him every month. I’m guessing Seagal could arm an army at this point.

What I’m getting at is that the man is a weirdo.

What does that mean for Sniper: Special Ops? Well, we’ll find out. This was suggested to me by a friend who thought I really needed to get my eyeballs on it. That friend? Christopher Dunn who made the art that adorns my YouTube Channel profile picture. If this is as painful as he might think it will be for me, I will disown him. Then again, without him telling me I should take a look at this movie, I would have been unawares of that story about Seagal messing his underwears.

Oh boy, if the title, the poster, the fact that Steven Seagal is in this movie, just… all of it… didn’t already give you a clue of what you might be in for, the credits intercut some footage from our dicey conflict and operations in the Middle East. Things explode. Muslims look poor and forced to ride donkeys. Things are being said like, “Ever since the Arab uprising…” and shit. Anyway, Seagal, playing Sergeant Jake Chandler is on a mission. Apparently a raid is on its way, but he is the sniper to take out any guards or other people roaming about first. A guy comes outside to drink from his flask and what does Chandler do? He first shoots the flask. Now… why? Why would he do that? Why shoot the flask if it’s possible that the guy will immediately begin alerting others by shouting or yelling or doing anything before you can deliver a kill shot?

Chandler does ultimately kill the guy, but I guess he’s also pretty goddamn lucky that the guy decided to tip the flask to see that his hooch is pouring out of the hole from the bullet instead of alerting the rest of his guys that there are snipers and army dudes around. No, you see… Chandler simply did this to give meatheads watching this movie a chuckle that he’s playing with his kill. That’s… dumb?

After killing another guy, soldiers come in to clean up the bodies. We learn from Rob Van Dam that the flask Chandler shot out of the first guy’s hand belonged to fallen solder Johnny Longbow. Johnny Longbow was once an amazing anthropologist professor. It’s a terrible shame he was called away from his studies of Moon Beasts to go to an awful war and fall in the line of duty.

So… what are these guys doing here? What’s the mission? Fuck if I know! We’re just here to see guys with machine guns saying military shit and shooting Arabs. I’m guessing there’s bad shit happening, but all this is here for is to see this group of bad asses go around and do bad ass shit. They also get to show the thinnest and tiniest bit of personality as one of the guys kisses a rabbit’s foot for luck and the other guy belittles him a little bit when he offers him the foot to kiss too.

Also, there’s clever dialog about how Chandler owes another guy on this team fifty, no, SIXTY bucks. But Chandler asks about knockin’ five bucks off for every time he saves the guy’s ass today. Now, this is all taken pretty lackadaisical among the soldiers. Let’s think about that for a minute, shall we? The only reason why this would be taken as such is because these people are bad asses who want to kill bad guys because that’s the only way the world would be safe, right?

Here’s the deal… I do not like war. I think war is bad – very bad! It can completely eliminate large swaths of an entire generation of people. And those it doesn’t wipe out will be scarred by it. They will adopt attitudes toward the types of people they are fighting against. They will have harmful ways of lashing out against loved ones because they can’t get the help they need to overcome the general PTSD and all that jazz, right?

Not all war movies are bad. There are wonderful war movies out there that will tackle the larger problems caused by war or the general heroism of people overcoming great odds against them and so forth. Sniper: Special Ops is not one of those movies. We’re thrown into this situation with very little to hold onto so we gotta get these people’s personalities, and those suck. But what do I know? I’m just some scum-suckin’ Liberal who you might think is making this country weaker by, I dunno… existing?

We do learn there is supposedly a security detail this squad is looking for. It’s gone missing very quickly. There’s a tiny bit of a mystery here. They expected to find a bunch of bad guys. No bad guys were present. There are some dead bodies, but whatever they were here to find is not here. At least there is one good shot so far in this movie…

Okay… That’s a good shot.

Not only is Johnny Longbow mentioned in this movie, but someone is named Vasquez too. I guess Fred Olen Ray is a fan of both Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Aliens. In another room, the squad does find the “package” – a kidnapped congressman. They radio for a chopper to get them and the congressman out, but, whomp whomp… no choppers available. So they have to leave by ground transport. This is precarious because there are bad guys coming to town!

You know he’s a bad guy because he wears head coverings.

Steven Seagal, so far doing very, very little but sitting or hanging out in a bird’s nest position, kills that guy, but now it’s a full on firefight. It should be noted that the army guys are calmly talking to each other and shooting like there’s no problem at all, but the congressman is cowering and screaming and covering his ears like a little girl. What a pussy, am I right, guys?

While the Special Ops team is cornered, the transports arrive and help get the squad out. However, Seagal and his sniper buddy are left behind. The buddy is shot and injured, but Seagal carries him into a building to hide out. I think it’s pretty safe to say that I do not believe, for one solitary fraction of a second, that Seagal was anywhere near where the rest of the Special Ops crew were. He’s filming with that buddy who is now injured and extras who come flying in to get shot by him. This is what is known as a “Geezer Teaser”.

What the hell is that? Well, it’s a combination of a few things. First, there are a TON of places to put media. Since the fall of the video store, you’ve had the rise of streaming and, frankly, you gotta put SOMETHING on those services. Second, there are a handful of types of movies you can make for pretty cheap – action flicks, thrillers, horror movies, and war movies like this one. A lot of people make a lot of these types of movies because they are not only cheap, but they are easy to sell and very consumable by fans of those genres. Lastly, you can probably fairly easily obtain a recognizable star who is past his prime pretty cheap. But wait… there’s more to that final concept.

You know how Bruce Willis made, like, 20 movies a year before we learned of his health issues? That’s because he gets asked by a couple makers of these Geezer Teasers to show up for a day or two of filming per movie, stay in a pretty stationary place, and he gets a bucket of cash and probably free McDonald’s for his trouble. Seagal was probably one of the first to really cash in on this idea. This came out in 2016, well past the time it was known he didn’t really like to work too hard on the set of movies. But if he can shoot a gun and pretty much be in and out in a couple days, I bet he’ll sell this movie to Netflix or Amazon Prime by name recognition alone.

It’s very clear he is not in the same movie with the rest of the crew. The reason I know this? He wasn’t able to get out of the firefight with the other guys. He communicates to the real star of the movie, Tim Abell playing Vic, via radio, and there is no indication they are spatially near one another.

It’s time for our third plot in Sniper: Special Ops. I’m not sure this 85 minute movie can handle this many plots, but Steven Seagal ain’t doing much in this movie, so, whatever… This lady is Janet. She wants to go off base for… reasons. General Man here is not cool with the idea. It’s dangerous. If you want to know why it’s been deemed as such, just remember – it’s a fucking warzone. Anyway, she says something that made my eyeballs roll so hard, I had to pause writing this article for 20 minutes in order to find them on the floor and put them back into my eye sockets.

She says she spent time in “Obamabad”. Sigh. Whether or not Fred Olen Ray selected that city’s name for political reasons or not, I’m positive the audience of this movie fist-pumped, slammed a Hamm’s, and then jerked off onto an American flag.

Anyway, this lady is a NATO correspondent. Remember, NATO is bad to the people who like this shit. Also, Lady Girl asks too many questions. That is also bad. She should be making sandwiches and being horny for these soldiers.

Janet tries to make nice with Vic. She says that she has to be pushy to get what she wants and she knows that people don’t like her for it. As soon as she says her last name is Conrad and she was in, sigh, Obamabad… Vic doesn’t want anything to do with her. She’s seen as a curse to soldiers.

Also… Check it out… Normal, American power lines in the background.

Vic questions the Congressman Cooper. He wants to know what happened in that town. Was the security detail ambushed or was it just a normal attack, etc. Apparently one of the guys who got injured during the extraction did hear him say a name – Abdul. I’m sure that will make it easier to find whoever was behind the congressman’s abduction.

Janet tries her hand again with Vic. She wants to call a truce between them. She says she finds him interesting. He’s not so sure about that, but she would like for him to get to know her to see she’s not so bad. Also, I think she’s suddenly soaking wet for the Sergeant. Anyway, he figures he already knows what she is – a spoiled rich girl, fancy education, money and people who can make sure she gets to do whatever she wants as a career, etc. She’s just a girl. It’s gay for these soldiers to like girls.

Anyway, Steven Segal, you know, the guy whose name is above the title? Yeah, him. What’s he up to?

Fucking Christ. Never mind.

Vic is sent to assist with a broken down supply truck just kind of hanging out however many “clicks” out from the base. I find this to not be at all what Vic should be doing which is saving the two guys that got left behind or stopping this Abdul guy. Also, it’s very possible this rescue mission is a set up anyway. Considering the star of the movie is just hanging out in a different location altogether and we know who the bad guy is, it’s possible this movie is starting to lose its own thread on a cohesive plot.

Naturally, the dumb girl with the press pass and the camera has stowed away to capture pictures of this rescue mission. The local guide is nervous acting and it’s definitely not giving Vic and Vasquez good feelings about everything. The reason why he’s nervous is because the army guy he was traveling with, Specialist Tyler, is also trafficking a scared woman and her baby that came out of nowhere.

Alright, so here we are, halfway through this movie, and now we’re literally broken down in the middle of the road. There’s a truck full of gasoline and ammo. There’s a woman who speaks a language that the guide, Bashir, doesn’t quite know. Janet is serving food and drinks to the woman and caring for the baby the woman brought with her because that’s what women are good for, got it?

Steven Seagal is still hanging out in a room and only shows up every now and then.

There’s really not much going on in this movie. I feel like this is one of those movies that was sold on the scene in those first 10-15 minutes. Once people turned off the movie, satisfied there’s action in it, it was put into distribution with no more questions asked. It’s dull. It’s got this kind of misplaced machismo that isn’t necessary. Vic just wants to put Janet in her place in some of the scenes. Janet is stupid and pushy and therefore a pretty weak female character. It’s not exactly sloppy or all that laughably bad, but it’s just… pointless.

But oh look… Not only were people with head wrappings needing to be gunned down by Steven Seagal, but Bashir was treated with incredulity. He gets bossed around by Vic and treated like a shitbag. Also! Muslim men are bad. Why? Well, they whip and punish their women!

Finally, something happens. Just as Vic tells Vasquez that Tyler is right about being sitting ducks in the middle of the road, they are attacked. Now, this is real bad news because the broken down truck is full of shit that could make for a very big boom. They send a guy to get the other truck they came in to move it over to shield the explosives transport. One guy gets shot and Tyler gets killed.

We found out earlier that Janet is a crack shot. So… I guess that means the woman in this movie is only useful if she’s firing a gun. Or making sandwiches. Or making sandwiches with guns.

Although, this is not entirely unsexy what’s happening right here.

The only plan is to get the woman and her baby transferred over to the working truck and then blow up the broken down truck once they escape. Janet is shot as she moves to escort the woman to the back of the truck. When the attackers see the woman with her baby, they retreat. Vic realizes that the woman and the baby are key to why they left them alone after seeing her. They are ready to leave, and Janet was only grazed and is patched up.

Back at Seagal’s portion of the movie, he’s still not doing much except to just watch after his injured buddy and make vague platitudes about doing your best or not wanting to know too much about what’s going on back home while he’s out there on the warfront, etc. Honestly, if you cut out Seagal’s whole portion of the movie, this is actually not a terrible movie. Sure, there’s still some weird macho shit happening with Vic and the weird annoying girl stuff with Janet, but it isn’t all that terrible of a movie. Kinda boring and lame, yes. Kind of pointless, sure. But having to constantly go back to Seagal while he just sits in a chair and whispers stoic lines is bad. That’s really bad. It’s actually almost embarrassing for a movie that isn’t all that much of a waste when we’re elsewhere.

And here’s the thing… Remember, I said I don’t like war movies, but there are good ones out there that delve into the deeper aspects of war and what have you. This movie has Seagal trying to do that for this plot, but it’s just not there. It’s vague. It’s shallow. It’s dumb. Speaking as softly and whispery as Seagal does doesn’t lend his dialog any deeper meaning.

Back in the more important story, I see Vic is not treating Bashir any nicer. He wants to know just who the hell the woman is with the baby. I think Vic is willing to kill Bashir if he doesn’t cooperate. Anyway, remember that Abdul dude? He’s the Taliban leader. The woman is the daughter-in-law of Abdul. The baby is Abdul’s only grandchild. Vic and Vasquez know this isn’t over. The attackers are going to come back.

Vic wants to use the woman as collateral to go into the town and rescue Steven Seagal and his buddy. The way he sees it, he can get into that town to extract them without even having a shot fired. Vasquez is very concerned that his friend is going to use a woman and her baby as literal meat shields. Vic says that’s not really his plan. He just wants to have the woman to prevent any violence.

So, they split up. What they don’t know is that Seagal, despite saying he wants to commandeer a truck to get out of the town he’s trapped in, has radioed base to request transport. Vic and Vasquez have arrived to plant explosives and drive into town to face off against bad guys. Of course, the baby’s grandfather, the literal leader of the Taliban (or so we were told earlier), is in the town that this big conclusion is headed toward.

So… what’s the play here? Trade the girl and the baby for Steven Seagal? Okay, sure. But, question… The woman was whipped and apparently running away from this family. Why are they doing this? Brotherhood, sure, sure. Okay, they are doing this to save Steven Seagal because they are army brothers or whatever. That means that either there is no trust in Seagal to figure out a way out of this town or no trust in the rest of the battalion to go get their left-behind guys. It also means that they are willing to fucking blow up half this country and wage a sort of crusade (yes, there’s a shield with a cross that looks like something a crusader would wear on Vic’s arm), but they aren’t so sure about saving this woman from continued abuse or possible execution for running away.

That… doesn’t make them good guys.

Also, when Vic approaches Abdul, he raises his hand and says, “How.” I guess all brown people are the same to Vic. Abdul speaks and Vic points out he’s educated. Uh oh… Here comes some right wing, anti-education shit. Abdul says he got four years of college on a scholarship. What did he study? LIBERAL arts. Vic says he had four hears of high school.

I couldn’t tell.

Fuck, some stuff in this is heavy handed. Obamabad… Liberal Arts degree for the leader of the Taliban. The movie is definitely showing its priorities in some of the jokes here. But wait… What’s Steven Seagal doing while this big confrontation goes down between the real star of the movie and the bad guy?

He’s watching the scene on TV.

Now, how this goes down is pretty fucking hilarious. They do not have the woman Jada or the baby with them. Instead, it’s Janet. She hangs a grenade on the Taliban leader and pulls the pin and tells him to rot in hell. She even calls him a motherfucker. The soldiers scramble and Abdul fuckin’ EXPLODES. They now are in a fire fight. The detonators that Vasquez set fail, but Seagal snipes the explosives to ignite them.

I think they kill everyone with the help of Janet firing a giant machine gun and kinda looking hot doing so. She gets to take a lot of pictures for her war journal, and she gets respect and gratitude from Vic.

The next hilarious thing happens… Steven Seagal shows up and has a back and forth with Vic. They are not in the same location. They are shot in shot/reverse shot from over their shoulders. It’s so obvious they aren’t together. You only need a guy wearing a hat backwards and a guy with long hair. Shot/reverse shot is not at all a good way to film a big reunion scene if the actors were actually in the same place at the same time. Here’s the evidence…

Shot A: Focus on Seagal over what should be Tim Abell’s left shoulder.
Shot B: Focus on Abell over what is supposed to be Seagal’s right shoulder.

This is the magic of editing folks. Then… THEN! Janet comes up to Seagal and says, “Sergeant Chandler… Are you really as good as they all say?” Good at what? Sitting in chairs? Acting against nobody? Filming all your scenes in, like, six hours and getting out of there to cash your check before the bank closes? What is he supposed to be good at?

“Sometimes…” That’s Seagal’s response. I have to assume that means he was good in the 80s and 90s, but not so much anymore. I think that would constitute as “sometimes”.

Again, there are things I could say wasn’t so bad. Not entirely likeable, but not terrible to watch. For example, the concept of Vic and Vasquez being trapped in a precarious situation with a runaway woman and baby. There’s a nugget of something dramatic and exciting there. The idea of saving someone left behind is interesting or could work in a movie.

The problem is that this movie is a scam. Seagal is on the cover of the box, the poster, and his name appears above everyone else’s. Shit… It’s above the title! He’s not really a part of the main plot of this movie. He’s just sitting in a chair with a wounded buddy and he’s looking out windows. Abell’s Vic and Van Dam’s Vasquez are the real stars of the movie. They are most connected to the plot. That would be like giving Seagal higher credit than Kurt Russell in Executive Decision. That would be dumb. But… The contract was written for Seagal to be the stars of these Geezer Teasers and that’s what’s going on here.

Where the movie fails outside of the ripoff nature of all the marketing and casting is the dialog. It’s very bad and it contains dog whistles for the average viewer of these types of movies. No, not those kind of dog whistles. I mean the kind that turns Barack Obama’s name into a town in a Muslim country where fighting happened and soldiers died. I mean the kind that makes Janet purposely annoying until you find out she can shoot pew pews at the brown men, and only then is she useful. I mean the kind of jokes that makes the leader of the Taliban go to college for a Liberal Arts degree. That’s some pretty lazy shit.

Oh yeah… A NATO investigative journalist blew up the leader of the Taliban. That… That was fucking hilarious.

But here we are at the end of this week’s article. This was a shitty movie, but not one that was anger-inducing. So… maybe watch at your own risk. Next week, I’m keeping the foot on the action gas pedal with the return of Leo Fong as Joe Wong in Blood Street!

Tomorrow, we continue Season 3 of B-Movie Enema: The Series. This week, we watch Jaws of Satan – a movie with a premise way more interesting than the movie itself. The best way to watch would be to, first, follow B-Movie Enema on Facebook and Twitter. That way, you can find out when the episodes drop. But then, subscribe to B-Movie Enema on YouTube and Vimeo. There, you can watch the episodes. If you have a Roku, download the free B-Movie Enema channel and watch everything there as well! While you’re there at Roku getting channels, get OtherWorlds TV too! My show is there on Sunday afternoons and they show lots of fun and good flicks with hosts on the weekends.

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