Sniper (1993 film)

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Sniper poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Luis Llosa
Produced by Robert L. Rosen
Written by
Music by Gary Chang
Cinematography Bill Butler
Edited by M. Scott Smith
Distributed by TriStar Pictures
Release dates
  • January 29, 1993 (1993-01-29)
Running time
99 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $18,994,653[1]

Sniper is a 1993 American action film starring Tom Berenger and Billy Zane as snipers on an assassination mission in Panama. It was shot in Queensland, Australia, and debuted at number two in the United States. It initiated the Sniper film series and was followed by four sequels: Sniper 2, Sniper 3, Sniper: Reloaded, and Sniper: Legacy.


Master Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Beckett, an experienced sniper, and his spotter Cpl. Papich are on a mission to assassinate a Panamanian rebel leader in the jungle; however, they are extracted in daylight instead of night time, which results in Papich's getting killed by a sniper. Beckett runs back under fire to haul Papich's body to the helicopter. Later, Beckett is paired up with an inexperienced civilian, Richard Miller, to eliminate a rebel general financed by a Colombian drug lord. Miller is a SWAT sharpshooter, but he has no combat experience or confirmed kills. On the way to the staging area, Miller's chopper is attacked by a guerrilla, who kills several members of the crew. Miller is unable to take out the attacker; instead, the chopper's dying gunner makes the kill. The co-pilot believes Miller is responsible, and Miller earns a false reputation.

Beckett's insistence that they deviate from the mission plan and belief that Miller is unfit for command sparks friction. Early on, they encounter a group of Indians, who lead them past rebel guerrillas in return for a favor and a target of opportunity: to eliminate El Cirujano ("The Surgeon"), an ex-CIA torture expert who works with the rebels. Beckett agrees to do so. Not certain of Miller's reliability and skeptical about his "kill" aboard the helicopter, Beckett expects Miller to make the kill to prove himself. When it comes time, Miller fails again by making a "warning shot" before missing a head shot at Cirujano. The ensuing firefight with the alarmed guerrillas results in the death of one of the Indians. Although the Indians do not directly blame Beckett or Miller, they withdraw further help.

On their way to their target, Beckett and Miller realize they are being followed. They head to a village to contact their informant, a priest, only to find him already tortured and murdered. Beckett speculates out loud that it is the work of El Cirujano, calling into question Miller's credibility. That night, Beckett marks their track to bait the follower—the sniper that killed Papich—into a trap and uses Miller as a bait to pull the sniper out of hiding. While waiting for the targets to emerge at the general's hacienda, they discover Cirujano is still alive. Miller takes out the drug lord, but Beckett sacrifices his chance to take out the general when he saves Miller's life. Beckett insists that they return to kill the general, but Miller's refusal leads to an exchange of fire between the two that ends when Miller runs out of ammo. Miller subsequently has a mental breakdown.

As rebels close in on the two, Beckett attempts to provide covering fire for Miller. Seeing himself outnumbered, Beckett surrenders to the rebels. Knowing that Miller is watching, he stealthily releases a round while holding up his rifle. Miller grabs the bullet after Beckett is taken away. With night time approaching, Miller goes to the extraction site, but instead of boarding, he heads to the base camp, where he kills the general with his knife and finds Beckett being tortured by El Cirujano. Beckett spots Miller in the distance and uses a ploy to both distract Cirujano and mouth Miller instruction to kill both of them with one shot. Instead, Miller sticks to "one shot, one kill" and shoots Cirujano in the head. The two run to the helicopter for extraction, and Beckett once again saves Miller's life: using his offhand, he shoots an ambushing sniper. The final scene shows Beckett and Miller on the way back home.



Billy Zane was cast after his starring role in Dead Calm raised his profile. Director Luis Llosa, who grew up watching American films, called modern films "cartoonish and antiseptic" in their depiction of violence; he said that he wanted to bring back a sense of impact to killing.[2] It was shot in Queensland, Australia.[3]


Sniper was held back from release in 1992.[4] It debuted at number two at the box office[5] on January 29, 1993, in 1551 theaters and went on to gross $18,994,653 in the US.[1] TriStar released it on VHS in August 1993,[6] LaserDisc in September 1993,[7] and on DVD in October 1998.[8]


Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, reports that 42% of twelve surveyed critics gave the film a positive review; the average rating was 4.7/10.[9] Roger Ebert rated it 3/4 stars and wrote, "Sniper expresses a cool competence that is a pleasure to watch. It isn't a particularly original film, but what it does, it does well."[10] Variety called it "an expertly directed, yet ultimately unsatisfying psychological thriller" that is "undermined by underdeveloped characters and pedestrian dialogue."[3] Vincent Canby of The New York Times described it as "partly a badly choreographed action drama and partly a psychological exploration of Beckett's mind, which comes up empty."[11]

Michael Wilmington of the Los Angeles Times called it a shallow film that does not explore the themes suggested by the script and instead turns into a bloodless, macho video game.[12] Clifford Terry of the Chicago Tribune called it a formulaic male-bonding drama that features a Hollywood odd-coupling.[13] Richard Harrington of the Washington Post criticized the lack of character progression and the implausible conclusion.[14]

Stephen Wigler of The Baltimore Sun called it a "poorly written, badly directed film" that substitutes violence for sex.[15] Marjorie Baumgarten of the Austin Chronicle rated it 3.5/5 stars and wrote, "Sniper does little that's terribly original but that which it does, it does with great competence and grace."[16]

Film series[edit]

Main article: Sniper (film series)

Sniper spawned four sequels: the TV movie Sniper 2 in 2002 and the direct-to-video movies Sniper 3 in 2004, Sniper: Reloaded in 2011, and Sniper: Legacy in 2014. Reloaded features Billy Zane's role of Richard Miller from the first Sniper film reprised, having himself become a sniper following his Panamanian tour experience with Thomas Beckett.


  1. ^ a b "Sniper". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2014-02-14. 
  2. ^ Koltnow, Barry (1993-01-31). "'Psycho hunk' gets a new role". Toledo Blade. Knight Ridder News Service. p. H2. Retrieved 2014-02-14. 
  3. ^ a b "Review: 'Sniper'". Variety. 1993. Retrieved 2014-02-14. 
  4. ^ Frook, John Evan (1993-01-05). "B.O. year: First among sequels". Variety. Retrieved 2014-02-14. 
  5. ^ Welkos, Robert W. (1993-02-02). "Weekend Box Office 'Sniper' Takes Aim at 'Aladdin'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-11-18. 
  6. ^ "New Releases". Reading Eagle. 1993-07-30. p. W17. Retrieved 2014-02-14. 
  7. ^ Saltzman, Barbara (1993-09-10). "A Compelling Look at Bruce, Brandon Lee". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2014-02-14. 
  8. ^ Olson, Karen Torme (1998-10-22). "Oct. 27 Releases (dates Subject To Change)". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2014-02-14. 
  9. ^ "Sniper (1993)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2014-02-14. 
  10. ^ Ebert, Roger (1993-01-29). "Sniper". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2014-02-14. 
  11. ^ Canby, Vincent (1993-01-29). "Sniper (1992)". The New York Times. Retrieved 2014-02-14. 
  12. ^ Wilmington, Michael (1993-01-29). "MOVIE REVIEW: 'Sniper' Is Too Quick on the Trigger". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2014-02-14. 
  13. ^ Terry, Clifford (1993-01-29). "`Sniper' Feels Rush But Misses Mark". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2014-02-14. 
  14. ^ Harrington, Richard (1993-01-30). "'Sniper' (R)". Washington Post. Retrieved 2014-02-14. 
  15. ^ Wigler, Stephen (1993-01-30). "Violent 'Sniper' a decidedly poor shot at a buddy film". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2014-02-14. 
  16. ^ Baumgarten, Marjorie (1993-02-05). "Sniper". Austin Chronicle. Retrieved 2014-02-14. 

External links[edit]