Friday, April 11, 2014

...and Wesley Snipes as Sgt. Gloomy Gus: "The Marksman" (2005)

Once in a while, a direct-to-video release is a hidden gem of a film ripe for discovery. This is not one of those releases.

Wesley Snipes is a silent military operative known as a "painter." He gets into dangerous locations, marks a target using what looks like an old doorbell button, and then escapes so the big planes can come in and bomb whatever he has marked. His squad can't stand him because he's a loner, a rebel who plays by his own rules...blech. Anyway, former flame Amanda (Emma Samms) has a new mission- blow up an old nuclear power plant in Chechnya before it can be used as a weapon, and extract the American hostages being held there. The mission into the plant is too easy, and only Painter (as Snipes is credited) is able to figure out what is going on.

Snipes was on a bad luck streak, rivaling Steven Seagal for churning out these action films. I'm not sure it is acting, but Snipes looks really pissed throughout the shoot. He doesn't have many lines, and a stunt double is used a lot, even in safe scenes involving jogging and other activities (when you see his face turned away from the camera, it's usually a safe bet that ain't him). If your leading man is this angry at the film, how is the viewer supposed to react? The cast is full of familiar faces, including producer Andrew Stevens in a goofy-mustached small role that was probably a hoot to no one but Andrew Stevens, and everyone looks miserable.

The film's one redeeming grace is its Romanian locale. I don't know where exactly this was filmed, but it's cement, Iron Curtain-look is great. The Eastern European accents are very difficult to understand, and the DVD I watched had no subtitles. The sound recording is awful all around, so I could only assume some of the plot points based on the expressions of the supporting cast as they talked into their telephones with intensity. Some of the stuntwork is good, but aside from our heroes, no one can hit the broad side of a nuclear reactor with a machine gun.

I knew I was going to give "The Marksman" a negative review, but the clincher was in a revelatory scene involving Samms looking at some satellite footage, and all I could see was a glaring misspelled word. Someone should sneak into Sony and mark all copies of this film for destruction. (*) out of five stars.