Saturday Matinee 2017 05: Sniper: Special Ops (2016)

For some reason, this film was overlooked by the Oscars and Golden Globes. The reason is a mystery. Is it because the nominal star is Steven Seagal, even though he’s in a secondary role? Is it because it was done on a keg-of-beer budget and dumped direct to DVD?

Or might it simply be the quality of the show? We leave the decision to the reader, but we commend the movie to Seagal completists, assuming there is such a thing.


Our intention was to review another bad (but not this bad) sniper movie, the Belarusian WWII-story production Sniper: Weapon of Retaliation. But the DVD went tango uniform and we didn’t make it to the end, so we reluctantly unwrapped Sniper: Special Ops and slipped it in to our DVD player.

Oh, the humanity!

Acting and Production

Steven Seagal is not at his best in this show; he’s old now, and out of shape (we can relate), and he never takes his sunglasses off… was he hung over on the couple of days that they shot all his scenes?

Although he’s in the film at the beginning and end, he’s not really the leading actor. That’s a guy named Tim Abell, of whom we can’t recall hearing a word, but who isn’t really bad. Abell plays Victor Mosby, a Special Forces or SOF NCO whose team has the mission of clearing an abandoned village. His performance (both acting and physical) is definitely the strongest in the film. Seagal’s character, Chandler, and a young guy are the sniper team providing overwatch for Mosby’s doorkickers.

Tim Abell in character

Chandler does not do any of Seagal’s signature fighting moves; rather than kicking ass, he seems to be maxed out and out of breath climbing — or descending — stairs, which is about as physical as he gets in this show. The DVD box, read at a glance, credits Seagal and Van Damme but if you read it, it’s actually Van Dam — Rob Van Dam, who has a tertiary role.


Dale Dye makes an appearance in his usual role, the ever-older World’ Oldest Lieutenant Colonel. (He’s got to be in his mid-seventies by now, and it’s great to see him working; here’s hoping the check cleared).


The movie has the overall gestalt of a 1950 B-movie Western, exacerbated by using the usual Western movie ranch with a little quasi-Afghan set dressing, with hooded “Afghan” extras in the role of sacrificial hadji mooks, complete with the interpreter as Kit Carson scout, the “plucky journalist” (Charlene Amoia, who does the best she can with leaden lines) as the obligatory woman-on-the-frontier, the supply wagon stranded in Indian territory, and the mysterious Indian princess who’s key to the whole thing.

Accuracy and Weapons

A half-assed job was done on the sets, uniforms and equipment. Here’s a close-up showing that Tim Abell’s rifle — the only one that appears to fire on automatic — is a converted Colt Sporter SP1. (Receiver profile is the give away). Abell’s weapons-handling is skilled and natural; he’s an Army NCO veteran, and both a scroll (2nd Battalion, before Regiment existed) and tab Ranger.

Note the truck in the background is a 1960s vintage M35. Yeah, they got that wrong.

Someone did train the actors on firearms, because they do seem comfortable with them. (Dye again, probably).

It seems that some of the firearms were airsoft or dummies, and the muzzle blasts were CGI’d in. It wasn’t terrible, unlike the explosions (yep, fireballs).

Note the actor on the right (Rob Van Dam, we think), who just heard his mom bought the DVD).

Neither the CQB nor the sniping is remotely realistic. And the “Taliban” or ISIL enemies? They seem to be the same guys from martial arts movies, whose brain housing groups are so deficient that they attack one at a time.

Despite being elite supreme ninja super pipe hitters, neither the good guys or bad guys can hit much of anything, so most firefight are a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, hitting nothing. The exception is the reporter chick, who picks up an M9 and proceeds to waste bad guys at 50 yards range, while the good and bad guys are blazing away ineffectually at each other with M4s and AKs respectively.

Also, the reporterette says at one time to Abell’s, remember, she is supposed to be addressing a special ops guy whose life includes lots and lots of trigger time on the range, “I’m qualified as an expert. Are you?” That shuts him up. (We’re guessing Ranger Abell was thinking of the paycheck, and biting his tongue).

The tactics sometimes approach laughable, but from the other side. For instance, a guy is sent to run across an open area to the next available cover, one of the ancient Vietnam vet deuce-and-a-halfs. “Start running, then we’ll cover you.” And he starts, and then they do. We won’t tell you the spoiler of what happens next, but you can probably guess.

At one climactic point, there’s a plot twist that’s so implausible we laughed aloud. Even the dog.


The bottom line

At 2 DVDs for $5, we figured, how can we lose with Sniper: Special Ops? Well, we watched it and there went an hour and a half or so of our finite and dwindling lifespan. That’s how.

For more information

These sites relate to this particular film.

  • DVD page:

It’s also available as a digital rental/sale product:

  • IMDB page:

  • IMFDB page:

  • Rotten Tomatoes review page (85%):

  • Infogalactic  page: (none)
  • History vs. Hollywood Page. (n/a).

26 thoughts on “Saturday Matinee 2017 05: Sniper: Special Ops (2016)

  1. SPEMack

    Ugh. Watched this on Netflix the other day. It was bad. And not fun bad like Invasion USA but just plain bad.

    1. Cap'n Mike

      Favorite quote from Invasion USA
      ” If you come back in here, I am gonna hit you with so many rights you are going to beg for a left.”

  2. Cap'n Mike

    They put Steven Seagal and Rob Van Dam on the box trying to suck in the people that watched action movies in the 1980s?
    That is awesome.

    If that wasnt enough pain for you Hognose, maybe you could reveiw Seagals album next.

  3. Toastrider

    Yeah, I could’ve told you that wasn’t gonna be Jean-Claude Van Damme in the movie. There’s some friction between Seagal and Van Damme. Evidently Seagal was talking trash about Van Damme, and it came to a head at a party, with ol’ JCVD saying (paraphrased) ‘Fine, let’s step into the ring and hash this out.’

    Cue Seagal fleeing the party and Van Damme chasing after him (I imagine this and all I can think is ‘Yakety Sax’ playing in the background).

    Jean-Claude’s got his quirks (he’s prone to codeswitching, which leads to some HILARIOUS quotes), but I’d have paid good money to watch him pummel Seagal.

  4. tom

    I love this review…
    The worse the movie, the better the reviews. Would it hurt any humanity convention asking for more of this?

    1. Stacy0311

      I could offer up reviews of some of the B Movie horror/slasher flicks I watched back in the 80s.
      Cinematic gems such as “Pieces”, “Phantasm”, “Re-Animator” “Student Bodies”.

      Some were so bad they became ‘classics’

  5. Steve M.

    I probably should have warned you. I saw five minutes of this movie over sombody’s shoulder and realized it was garbage.


    Seagal is the very picture of a warrior there on the cover, with his belly straining and bulging over his belt. Laughable.

  7. Aesop

    You’re slipping, Hognose.
    I think you liked this one.

    And Dye’s (and everyone else’s) checks always clear. cf. “completion bonds”
    And the money spends just like money from A-list movies. There’s just less of it to spend.
    He also knows the only sin in Hollywood (or, in this case, North Hollywood) is to be not working.
    You really never know who you’ll meet on a crap project that could later do you a solid; and everyone (yes, even the A-list names) works on pure crapola routinely, and commiserates about it on the Next Big Thing.
    It’s just that at levels above Steven Seagrams, er, Seagal, the release agreement specifies that the crapola will never be released in N. America. Ever.

    Somebody with a wicked sense of humor would pair Seagal up again with 80’s poster-bait and Seagal ex Kelly LeBrock. She’s only 56 (to Seagal’s 64), but the mileage on that chassis is at the far side of the norm for that model year.
    Maybe they can work them both into Expendables 4.

    1. John M.

      About 20 years ago I saw Rodney Dangerfield on one of the late-night shows plugging his latest movie. The host rolled the clip from the movie and it was pretty plainly awful.

      Dangerfield said something to the effect of, “Most every movie you make seems like Gone with the Wind while you’re in the middle of making it. But this one? Well…”

      -John M.

    2. Quill_&_Blade

      “but the mileage on that chassis is at the far side of the norm for that model year.”….
      If I had to pay to read this blog; I’d get twice my money’s worth.

    3. Mike_C

      Heh. While bearing in mind that I’m highly unlikely to ever be in the position of having to decide whether I should turn down present-day Kelly LeBrock’s affections (which is okay since I didn’t drool over her when she was at the height of her popularity), I would note that a well-maintained classic with higher mileage beats a barely-driven Fnord Fiasco or comparable vehicle any day. Sometimes there’s an obvious reason something is low mileage.

      I once saw part of an interview with young Kelly LeBrock. The woman interviewer asked, “If you could change your appearance, I mean any part of your face or body, what would you change?” There was this pause, during which you could almost see possible response-options scrolling behind her eyes (a la the Terminator) while Ms LeBrock was trying to come up with a non-insulting, non-dismissive answer. Finally she said, without much conviction, “Well, I guess it would be nice to have longer toes.” Snerk!

  8. gebrauchshund

    I keep wondering if there was a law passed at some point mandating a part for Dale Dye in every military themed movie made in the US. Nothing against the guy, he’s done some good work (I suspect most of his best work has been behind the scenes), but jeebus, if there’s a movie in which more than three people wear a military uniform, at least one of them will be Dale Dye.

    1. Blackshoe

      I think the most out-of-place Dale Dye appearance is where he played COL Leonard Wood in The Rough Riders. I’ll grant that Dye is probably a tactics expert, but probably not for the Spanish-American war. I’m not sure what got him the role more than just being a general “military guy”.

      1. Aesop

        Rough Riders was mainly a Tom Berenger tour de force, as a really spiffy TR.

        So, who is it, do you think, who ran Berenger and the entire cast of pampered pussy layabout actors in Platoon through an ass-kicking 30-day boot camp in the Philippine jungle, to make sure they got humping the bush in Vietnam right, before any actual filming on the Best Picture winner of 1986 commenced, do you suppose?

        Which thing had never been done by anyone B.D. (Before Dye)?

        I’ll wait.

        Dye is one of four (max) actual go-to military-experienced advisors Hollywood has been conditioned, by dint of many applications of 2×4 to the heads and shoulders of screenwriters, directors, and producers, to actually consult and pay attention to, before making military movies. You’re welcome. They’re the reason military movies tend to suck less, and you don’t see entire ribbon racks upside down any more. IMHO, if somebody tapped Dye even for consulting on the Viking raids or Punic Wars, a) he’d get it right, and b) they’d have their heads screwed on straight.

        (And R. Lee Ermey, Harry Humphries, and Mark Lonsdale are the other three, in case you were wondering.)

        FWIW, all of these folks are getting pretty long in the tooth. A person with the right bona fides, and the nod and a kind word from one or more of those guys could set himself up in a nice niche career for the next 20-30 years, if they had a mind to do so. Just saying.

        1. Hognose Post author

          I actually interviewed for a position with the assistant director of Shutter Island, at the request of a friend the director had asked for, but who was at the time in Iraq. John was kind enough to recommend me. I did not impress the assistant, a very nice (if gentle to the point of timid) fellow named Joe Reidy, and did not get the job. If anyone did he was not credited. John must have impressed them more. (I suspect it’s visual. John looks like a central casting Special Forces CW5, which makes sense as he’s the actual SF CW5 that those casting whatevers are trying to copy. I look pretty forgettable).

          Thus ended my brush with Hollywood fame and fortune. I was impressed at how hard everyone was working months before shooting was to start. The guys behind the camera work like dogs.

  9. SAM

    You want to see bad watch Militia (2000 staring Dean Cain). About 50% of the film is made of out takes from other movies many First Blood part II (& Militia is set in DC) and Terminator 2. So they get in a helicopter and fly from over DC which for some reason is now a jungle, they go to a office block called Cyberdyne Systems.

      1. SAM

        It’s been some time since I last watched Militia but as far as I can remember the acting is the best part of it. I’ve like Dean Cain ever since I watch him in Lois & Clark he always looks like he’s having fun (unlike most actors). He also always makes every pro gun celebrities that I have read, and that has to have lost him work. He has repeatedly used his Twitter account (I don’t fead twitter at all) to slam gun control policies and he told fellow celeb Rob Lowe that he “would be keeping his guns” during one exchange.
        The films has also got Stacy Keach who I loved as Mike Hammer which here in the UK has never been repeated,

        1. SAM

          I’ve just looked at Dean Cain Twitter he’d be at home on this site, he’s one of the good guys and in Hollywood that has to cost him.

Comments are closed.