This is a very different type of Steven Seagal movie, in that it contains very minimal amounts of Steven Seagal. The majority of the film focuses on the efforts of the rest of his unit to get back to him and the wounded comrade he stayed behind to protect. Every once in a while, we’ll cut back to Seagal sitting in a room, staring out the window. There aren’t any classic Seagal lines; there’s no hand-to-hand fighting; he doesn’t even get the girl at the end.
All that said, Sniper: Special Ops is a good movie. The acting is in the decent-to-okay range (except for Three-Headed Shark Attack‘s Rob Van Dam), there’s some tense action (especially the opening sequence), and the plot is free from the unnecessary complications that plagued Seagal’s earlier direct-to-video efforts.
The real main character is Vic, played by Tim Abell – an honest-to-God real life Army Ranger who plays his role with convincing toughness, humor, and charm. He’s the kind of guy who isn’t afraid to bend the orders of his superior, Colonel Jackson (Dale Dye, who you may recognize as Captain Garza from both Under Siege movies) if it means getting a shot at rescuing his friends and taking out a local warlord.
Abell really carries the film, and he’s a good enough actor to make even Rob Van Dam seem halfway competent. The other standout character is Janet (Charlene Amoia), an embed reporter who everyone avoids like the plague because she’s an Admiral’s niece and a “jinx.” I don’t want to give anything away, but she turns out to be cool, competent, and capable of kneeing a terrorist in the balls and telling him to burn in Hell. Now THAT’S how you establish credentials for a character, Star Wars Episode VII.
What will likely upset most viewers is the real lack of classic Seagalian stuff. Considering that he’s billed first, and he’s the only character on the DVD cover art, AND the trailer focuses entirely on him, I can see why people might feel… misled. But look on the bright side: this shows that Steven is still a bankable star that can put a movie over the top. At this stage in his career, he’s like a late-80s Andre the Giant – not what he once was, but still a respected enough force to give a push to up-and-coming talent.
There’s one moment, at the very end, that plays almost like an homage to Seagal’s entire career. He’s been wearing his sunglasses the entire movie, but as Janet approaches him he finally takes them off and gives her his trademark squint. They have the following exchange:
Janet: Are you really as good as they all say you are?
Seagal: …Every once in a while.
Yeah, Janet. He is. Haven’t you ever seen Marked for Death?
Sniper: Special Ops is, admittedly, a niche movie, but it’s a pleasant surprise as opposed to the typical big, bloated disappointment that most major studio films turn out to be.
Despite minimal screen time, Seagal still manages to kill 20 bad guys.