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USMC Master Sgt. Thomas Beckett (Tom Berenger) is the best sniper in the Corps, with 74 kills to his record, along with a few dead "spotters" -- fellow Marines of his who didn't survive their daring one-shot raids. But when the U.S. Government decides that a Panamanian rebel leader is next on Beckett's hit-list, inexperienced Lt. Richard Miller (Billy Zane) -- a soldier with no kills but an Olympic medal for sharpshooting -- is assigned by some Washington pencil-pushers as the spotter for the top-priority mission, creating a great deal of tension between the older sergeant who has no love for life and the younger officer who only wants to keep his ass alive. If the proposition of Sniper is an intriguing one, the execution falls somewhat short of the mark. Berenger is a quality actor and well used as the battle-scarred Beckett , but Zane is given a much tougher job, playing an essentially unlikable character with no real depth or audience sympathy. And with such a simple, wide-open double-plot (the journey towards the assassination, the hostile relationship between the two Marines), a epic-length film could have been fashioned that might have been downright brilliant. The best thing that can be said about Sniper is that it makes a detailed effort to illustrate the nature of this arcane profession, but character development is overlooked and too many crucial scenes are cut short, leaving us with a routine action-drama that remains interesting but fails to satisfy. Also starring J.T. Walsh, directed by Luis Llosa. Good transfer, DD 5.1, trailer.

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