Sniper: Ghost Shooter (2016)

Sniper: Ghost Shooter (2016)- * *

Directed by: Don Michael Paul

Starring: Chad Michael Collins, Dominic Mafham, Billy Zane, and Dennis Haysbert

Brandon Beckett (Collins) and Richard Miller (Zane) return yet again for another look through the reticule, this time tasked with protecting a gas pipeline in Turkey and Eastern Europe from terrorists. When Beckett mouths off to his superior officer, he’s sent to the high reaches of the Caucasus Mountains so he can go snipe in the snow. It’s there he links up with some local snipers who want to join the fight against the baddies. Meanwhile, Colonel (that’s all he’s credited as) (Haysbert) is running things from behind the scenes. Will the team all get along? Will they fight against one more evil sniper? Who will make it to the next sequel? Find out today…?

So here we are on the sixth and, as of this writing, penultimate film in the inexplicably lengthy Sniper film series. Honestly, we’re running out of things to say. We’re trying hard not to be repetitive. I mean, we’re trying hard not to be repetitive. But obviously we’re putting more effort into that endeavor than the makers of the Sniper series are. We’re now at Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm Street levels in the sequel sweepstakes. Who knew?

Sure, Ghost Shooter commits a couple of the seven deadly DTV sins we’re always railing against, such as the fact that there’s no one strong, central villain, there is an over-reliance on CGI, such as in the computerized blood, smoke, missiles and, in an especially ridiculous moment, a CGI helicopter, and there are many scenes in darkness where no lights are turned on or, evidently, even considered to be important.

The plot is weak and character development is nil. Chad Michael Collins is, you guessed it, still bland and faceless. All that being said, the movie isn’t a total trainwreck; Billy Zane, as usual, enlivens the proceedings, seemingly effortlessly. Dennis Haysbert’s presence is also not just welcome, but desperately needed to give life to what we’re seeing onscreen. Dominic Mafham isn’t in it that much but he adds something to the scenes he’s in. The locations are picturesque, and we get references to current events when our heroes fight ISIS. There’s even a nod to the old school with a couple of guard tower falls.

It should be noted that the main bone of contention as it relates to all the conflict and action is called the Gazsnab Pumping Station. A lot of people get shot over something with such a funny name. 

Of course, there’s a lot of shooting and sniping action (with all the military jargon that would imply), but without any suspense or character development, it gets boring fast. Things would pick up a bit in the subsequent installment, but we tend to think there isn’t a lot of ammo left in the chamber.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett 


Fatal Secret (1990)

Fatal Secret (1990)- * * *

Directed by: Mats Helge and Anders Nilsson

Starring: David Carradine, Camilla Lunden, Frederick Offrein, and A.R. Hellquist

As is usually the case, everyone is after “the disk”. Yes, yet another floppy disk containing top secret information is highly sought-after. The CIA, The KGB, and a nefarious drug dealer named Michael LeWinter (Carradine) all want the disk. Thankfully, a special agent of some sort named Kim Brown (Lunden) is on the case. Teaming up with John Mitchell (presumably not the British prog rock guitarist) (Hellquist), the two of them single-handedly embark on a mission to get the disk to the right people…but who are they? And can they be trusted? In the meantime, many battles ensue. Who will uncover the FATAL SECRET?

If you were to stop some random Americans on the street and ask them what they think of when they hear the word “Sweden”, you might get answers such as Abba, Ikea, a certain Chef from the Muppets, or perhaps you may get some mutterings about meatballs. The more informed among them may mention some sort of bikini team or something about death metal. What you won’t hear them say, sadly, is anything about the great Mats Helge or his contributions to Swedish cinema. To be fair, some of his works were exported to the U.S. and some weren’t, but the wider public at large should know that Swedish filmmaking doesn’t start and end with Ingmar Bergman. 

We’re constantly championing Helge’s work, and we’re not about to stop now. In Fatal Secret, the Helge stock company that appeared in his prior films all come back to shoot at each other one more time. There is a lot of gun-shooting in this particular outing, but the best scene involves a fight between Helge regular and Kurt Russell lookalike Hellquist and a really unfortunate dude in an attic with a bare lightbulb. You’ll know it when you see it.

David Carradine comes back as well, and while his triumph for Helge was Animal Protector, here he puts his usual screen presence into his relatively small role as the smooth yet shady LeWinter. Of course, the Kenny Rogers Guy – Frederick Offrein – is back too, because it couldn’t be a Helge movie without him. Interestingly, the actors weren’t the only collaborators that came back to work with him. Anders Nilsson, who worked behind the scenes for Helge in many different capacities over the years, was seemingly promoted and is credited as co-director here.

Once again, the film was done under the aegis of the SWEDISH ACTION FILM FORCE, which is the first credit we see on screen. Shortly thereafter, we see characters in a room with an American flag in the background looking at a briefcase filled with American dollars. Just how this squares with the Swedish Action Film Force is all part of the puzzling fun, as are the myriad accents just about everyone on screen speaks with (does Carradine have an American accent?)

But the important thing to know is that there’s a character named Angelo who looks like a malevolent Yakov Smirnoff. And, as in prior Helge outings, there’s a “greatest hits” during the end credits, so you can see all your favorite parts again. Not Jackie Chan-style outtakes, but sitcom-style replays of what you previously saw. He probably figured to get the most bang out of his buck that way. We’re certainly not complaining. Plus, the pumping 80’s music by Dough (Yes, Dough) Anderzon plays over it all, so if you’re really pressed for time, you can just skip to the end credits. 

While we wouldn’t say to run right to this movie if you’ve never seen any of Mats Helge’s other works before, if you’ve seen and loved The Ninja Mission (1984), Russian Terminator (1989), or Animal Protector (1989), and want more, here is another great example of Mats doing what he does best. 

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty 


Animal Protector (1989)

Animal Protector (1989)- * * *1\2

Directed by: Mats Helge

Starring: David Carradine, A.R. Hellquist, Frederick Offrein, Camilla Lunden, Mats Hudden, and Timothy Earle

Somewhere off the coast of Sweden is a secret American military base run by the sinister Col. Whitlock (Carradine). Using underlings such as Carter (Offrein) and Johnson (Earle), among others, Whitlock uses his iron-fist tactics to ensure the base continues its dark experiments. Sadly, they are doing testing on all sorts of animals to create biological weapons. When a trio of female animal rights activists called the ANIMAL PROTECTORs, led by Carrie (Lunden), but including Helen (Ostrom) and Tina (Anderson), sneak their way onto the base in order to free the helpless animals – as do a meatheaded CIA agent named John Santino (Hellquist) and another good guy named Lomax (Hudden) – all hell is going to break loose on the island.

Animal Protector is further proof that the work of Mats Helge comprised Sweden’s greatest cinematic exports of the 1980’s. We’re constantly championing him because he continues to deliver the goods for film after film. Frankly, we like his style. Even the choice of title is unorthodox: of all things, Animal Protector, in the singular, even when there’s a group of so-called “Animal Protectors”, among a myriad of other characters. Why? Perhaps it’s to pique our interest. And it totally worked, just like everything else in this remarkable film. 

This time around, none other than David Carradine joins the fray, and a team up between him and Offrein (who we’ve called “Kenny Rogers” in the past because he looks exactly like Kenny Rogers) is as magical as you’d think it might be. When not bewildered by a blur of different accents during the dialogue scenes, Animal Protector provides near non-stop shooting, blow- ups, or some type of action. The dance club fight/shootout was a particular highlight, but there are many. What puts that one a cut above the rest are Lomax’s hypnotic pants. Which sounds like a movie title in its own right.

One of the action scenes late in the movie is re-used in a solarized, stylized fashion for the opening credits sequence, ensuring something is blowing up or being shot at all times. There’s even a bit of Punchfighting in the beginning to get us all hooked in to the proceedings. Yes, it does have an overall feeling of being totally ridiculous, but it also has a ton of heart. While obviously shot with the international market in mind, it also retains a special “Made in Sweden” feeling, with a lot of handcrafted charm. That in combination with the non-stop action produces a gem.

Nowhere is that better exemplified than in the character of Santino, portrayed by Swedish National Treasure A.R. Hellquist. As if all the wild n’ wacky goings-on weren’t enough, along comes an oiled-up meathead to just put things over the top. Just like in Helge’s Russian Terminator (1989) (hey, if a formula works, it works). Some say he slightly resembles Kurt Russell. He takes his shirt off and keeps it off for no reason that we can discern. Even in the cold Swedish night when you can see everyone’s breath, Hellquist’s shirt is nowhere to be seen. Fantastic.

Featuring music by Dough Anderzon (surely his name is Doug Anderson and this is a typo…come on, Dough? But it’s all part of the fun) and featuring an incredibly catchy tune by Dag Unenge and Peter Ahs called Face To Face, Animal Protector is a solid winner all around from the inimitable Helge.

Also check out a write-up from our buddy, Explosive Action!

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett