I can’t call myself a Wesley Snipes fan, but I have enjoyed several of his movies over the years, including Major League, White Men Can’t Jump, New Jack City, and Mo’ Better Blues. Heck, even Passenger 57 was an okay action movie for something made 15 years ago. I haven’t been paying much attention to Snipes’ career recently, but I just took a peek at his IMDB.com page and saw that almost all of his recent movies are straight-to-video (or DVD, I guess) efforts, including 2005’s The Marksman (which I didn’t know was STV before I rented it). What happened to Snipes? What did he do to piss off the powers that be in Hollywood?
Plot summary (with possible spoilers): Snipes stars as a military marksman known only as The Painter. He works with a Special Forces unit that’s deployed to Chechnya in order to stop terrorist Egor Zaysan (played by Dan Badarau) from setting off a live reactor and causing mass destruction in the area. The military unit also has a secondary objective of rescuing a few hostages, American scientists who for some reason were helping with “research” for the reactor.
It doesn’t take much effort for the team to secure the hostages, which leads the Painter to believe that something else is going down. His hunch is correct, as one of the hostages turns a gun on her rescuers and starts shooting members of Painter’s team. The ones that aren’t killed are themselves taken hostage, leaving the Painter to fend for himself for a while.
The Painter eventually does figure out the truth, and he manages to take out the terrorists and rescue his team before being safely extracted from the region.
My Reaction: The first thing I noticed about The Marksman is that it totally felt like the straight-to-video production that it was. By that I mean, it was clearly a low-budget effort, and the overall viewer experience suffered because of that. For one thing, this was supposed to be an action movie, but there are very few real action sequences, particularly in the first hour or so of the film. Second, it seemed as though the filmmakers used stock footage for some of the establishing shots (like of the aircraft carrier out on the ocean). You don’t have to be watching in hi-def to see that these patched-in pieces are far grainier than the rest of the movie, which of course was totally distracting. And finally, it was painfully obvious that the production team couldn’t afford the services of a script doctor to help flesh the film out a bit.
Furthermore, I had a hard time getting into this movie because there was zero character development along the way. We only learned bits and pieces about the Painter, like how he screwed up an operation in Bosnia and how he had an affair with government official Amanda Jacks (Emma Samms), and both of those points were glossed over very quickly. As a result, I didn’t care if he succeeded or was killed, captured, tortured, etc. I suppose the argument could be made that Painter was supposed to be a mysterious person, but I think that’s pretty lame. Why risk alienating your audience like that?
The Marksman wasn’t a good movie, but it wasn’t the worst I’ve ever seen, either. I give it 2 stars out of 5, and assure you that there’s no reason to rush right out to rent it!