This is a new DVD release of a TV movie called Sharpshooter. It is the pretty clichéd story of a US Black Ops sniper who wants to retire but is convinced to perform just one more job. To answer your questions: no, this is not the Antoine Fuqua film called Shooter starring Mark Wahlberg, and yes, this is like a poor man's Shooter. The DVD contains nothing but the film, so you'll have to be a big fan to spend money on it.
We begin with our protagonist sniper, Dillon (James Remar), as he rescues some anonymous, important Westerner from Arabs in the Middle East. He then travels back to the United States, where his longtime friend Flick (Mario Van Peebles) convinces him that his country needs him just one more time before he retires in peace. Dillon, of course, reluctantly agrees, and he heads for the small town of Julian, California. (And Sharpshooter was actually shot in Julian, California, east of San Diego. What are the chances? I guess the producers didn't want to pay to have fake signs made with a fictional town name!) There he spends most of the film spying on Mr. Phillips (Al Sapienza), an arms dealer and all-around bad guy, who is Dillon's final target. The Phillips mansion/stronghold and its surrounding forrest is the setting for almost all of the action in the film.
Like the horrible Fuqua film, Sharpshooter is the epitome of cashing in. Like it or not, young American men tend to be interested in guns, and there is something very appealing about being the deadly sniper, the lone assassin whom nobody can touch. So this is the type of movie that people will watch because of the intriguing subject matter, even if the film itself isn't very good.
Sharpshooter is shot conventionally. There is a lack of CG, which is great, and director Armand Mastroianni avoids the super fast cutting that passes for action editing these days. But restrained filmmaking still doesn't add up to exciting action scenes; they pretty much consist of a shot of Dillon shooting followed by a shot of a bad guy going down. The most interesting action scene, in which two dirt bike riders try to kill Dillon while he's in a cab, feels very contrived. The rest of the film is put together admirably, but simply; there obviously wasn't all that much of a budget, and the lack of variety in the locations reflects that (one desert, brief city, lots of forest). The editing feels a little slower than the typical made-for-TV feature, and that's a good thing. (Actually, compared to most of today's movies, with their excessive camera movement, lightning-fast editing, and over-the-top CG, Sharpshooter is, in fact, conventional. I like it.)
Again, this is a film that begs to appeal to a fan boy audience. Dillon's horrible, clichéd voice overs express the stereotypical ideas about the killer being sick of killing and living his life alone. The filmmakers got a little too excited about their movie, causing silly mistakes; at one point, a gun without a silencer sounds silenced when it's fired because we all know using a silencer is cool.
The performances match the rest of Sharpshooter's quality: they're sufficient, but they won't leave an impresssion. Remar, most famous for playing Rochard, one of Kim Cattrall's flings on "Sex and the City," though I preferred him in 1996's The Phantom, is cardboard as the impersonal special agent. Van Peebles (Carlito's Way: Rise to Power) has only one tone of voice as Flick. The biggest disappointment is Sapienza as Mr. Phillips. The writers failed to give us a compelling bad guy, which is always a mistake in a film where you get to know your enemy. Sapienza is not only not threatening, he doesn't even convince that he has the mental or social power to become a crime lord. Catherine Mary Stewart (The Last Starfighter) is cute as Amy, a reporter who just happens to be in Julian when all of this is going down and who becomes Dillon's love interest (helping him learn to love again?). All of these performances are one-dimensional until some (surprise!) double-crosses change the way some characters act.
Sharpshooter gets one thing right, and that's looking good on this DVD. The image is enhanced for widescreen TV's and fits them perfectly. It is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1. There are no defects in the picture, and some of the locations, such as the lush forests of California, lend themselves well to the bright image. The black levels are very deep but avoid any posterization or blocking, even when upconverted to a hi-def TV. For those of you looking for an action film, Sharpshooter passes in the visuals department.
It's nice to see someone take the time to program 5.1-surround into a TV movie. The English surround is the only track on the disc, however, and there is no commentary. The 5.1 sounds pretty good, but not too much is done with the rear tracks other than using the musical score by Stephen Graziano. The effects sound good, with some good base during explosions and sharp sounds for the gunfire; everything an action film needs is in the audio.
There aren't any special features on Sharpshooter, and it doesn't even have any subtitles in any language.
Comparisons to the more famous sniper movies of the past are inevitable, and Sharpshooter only holds up because none of its predecessors were very good, either. This DVD looks good, but its extremely short length (84 minutes) and the complete lack of special features make this a "Rent It" at best. Go for it if you're either really into military special forces-types of movies or if you happen to love James Remar. Ha.