Sadly, Not the Series End

There’s a lot of fear in Sniper: Assassin’s End. Relevant, headline-baiting fear. After a political assassination, scrutiny in the CIA and Homeland Security turns toward big pharma, a corrupt for-profit boogeyman – intertwined with Russians in this story.

Heroes? The father/son sniper team, reuniting again in a series totaling now eight movies, of which only one was theatrically released back in 1993. Most people likely forgot the derivative, formulaic Sniper. The luckier ones were unaware the series continued. In that case, those people live in blissful ignorance of Sniper: Assassin’s End too.

Tom Berenger reprises his role as Thomas Beckett, now retired, living in a forest, chopping firewood as all these ‘80s/’90s action character seem to do eventually. His son Brandon (Chad Michael Collins) handles the footwork, trying to prove himself innocent after a wrongful accusation. What this means is digging into right-leaning paranoia about incompetent governments, conspiracy, and solving it all with a gun.

Sniper: Assassin’s End so gravely lacks energy

Other than a key scene between the two – purely foreshadowing – there’s little connection between Thomas and Brandon. Aside from Brandon saying, “dad,” it’s hard to see them as family, even a distant one. Or, anything outside of the military family.

Sniper: Assassin’s End introduces a newcomer though. That’s the real purpose here, either to send the elder Beckett into the sunset, or expand the franchise. It’s odd though – in the mix with American pharmaceutical execs, Russian hitmen, and US intelligence is a Japanese Yakuza member named Lady Death (Sayaka Akimoto). Akimoto plays the role with appropriate heartlessness, yet her addition comes off as an odd tangent, even after explanation. If Sniper continues with Lady Death, this changes the thematic, pro-militarization aura around the franchise. And, maybe, gives it energy, of which Sniper: Assassin’s End so gravely lacks.

If there’s an equivalent to where Sniper stands decades on, it’s those WWE-based actioners like The Marine or 12 Rounds that keep earning sequels. Threadbare scripts, unexciting action, and general boredom set in. That’s the case with Sniper: Assassin’s End too. To call it workmanlike is kind, even if a few visuals manage to break from the direct-to-video, TV-like scope.

Video

Perfectly capable imagery keeps the glossy digital source imperfection-free. A little noise in spots aside (oddly aggressive on some hospital walls), clarity stays high, allowing exceptional detail. Scenery frequently employs forests, gorgeously resolved down to individual leaves. Facial definition doesn’t give up its hold either.

Color grading veers toward the harsh, coating Sniper: Assassin’s End in blue. Primaries do escape, green especially, and flesh tones find a medium between washed out and flush. There’s nothing in terms of rich primaries though, diluted for tone.

Skewed color takes some zip from the contrast, preventing pure white. Black levels hit their mark though, spectacular for the full runtime, pushing shadows to their deepest point. A little crush is inherent to the cinematography, cloaking snipers in suitable darkness. This looks natural and pleasing.

Audio

In DTS-HD, this mix is a bummer for its lacking low-end kick. The major action scene involves a car wreck, of which nothing comes from the subwoofer. Guns fail to add any power – sniper rifles, handguns, or the rest. Any rumble comes from the score and a few music stings, extending deep, so it’s a wonder why the shooting is so lean.

Channel separation matches the budget level, hardly utilizing surrounds other than for ambiance. Again, even the action fails to find purpose for anything but the center.

Extras

A couple trailers.

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Sniper: Assassin's End
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The seventh sequel to a forgettable early ’90s action flick, Sniper: Assassin’s End only bores in developing the next iteration.

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