Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Ken Foree, Ulli Lommel, Chris Kriesa, Tory N. Thompson
Directed by Ulli Lommel
What a difference having Ken Foree as the lead actor, co-writer, and co-producer makes for a Ulli Lommel production. Instead of garnering a zero knife or an outright FUCK THIS MOVIE! rating like every single Lommel serial killer bio-movie I have ever endured, D.C. Sniper upgrades to receiving a one-knife rating instead. One whole knife! I almost feel like congratulating Mr. Lommel.
The addition of a talented actor like Ken Foree spouting the usual Lommel psychobabble, some of which Foree presumably wrote or adlibbed himself, elevates this Lommel outing from unwatchable intolerable crap to merely plain old crap. More structured yet still without a coherent narrative, more rambling than incoherent, often more like a feature-length “America’s Most Wanted” reenactment segment than the usual artsy fartsy surrealness, D.C. Sniper truly is a step up, as hard as that may be to comprehend for those of you that have ever had the displeasure of subjecting yourself to one of Ulli Lommel’s mental anguish-burned-to-DVD.
I assume that getting Ken Foree aboard cost Lommel a chunk of change, and given the no-budget nature of Lommel’s movies, Foree might have literally been paid with a pocketful of change, not just because half the movie takes place in a parked car or with actors in front a black backdrop talking directly into the camera and the rest consists of two officers of the law loitering about Washington, D.C. landmarks with binoculars looking more suspicious than the killers they’re on the lookout for, but also because Lommel cast himself as one of the two past middle-age law enforcement officers pursuing the D.C. Sniper.
One of them is a D.C. detective that does a massive amount of voiceover narration and the other is a non-verbal federal agent referred to as “the cowboy” because he wears a cowboy hat. Since I don’t know what Lommel looks or sounds like and I have no recollection of the names of either of these two cops ever being revealed outside of the closing credits, I remain unclear which one was Lommel. I believe he was the cowboy, which would explain why he’s the Silent Bob of this crime-busting duo. It is well within the realm of possibility I missed the saying of their names or when the cowboy spoke amid the endless word salad that is what passes for a movie here.
In typical Lommel fashion, D.C. Sniper boasts a heavy emphasis on repetition and introspective monologues, especially the latter, so voluminous it all starts to run together as the mind grows numb. Half the time Ken Foree’s dialogue as John Allan Muhammad has him in the car with his 17-year-old cohort (Lee Boyd Malvo, the actual shooter, treated as almost a non-factor, rarely saying a word) muttering stuff to him along the lines of:
“That’s the one.”
“Take the shot.”
“You know what kind of preservatives they put in those mashed potatoes?”
Again, as is usually the case with Lommel serial killer flicks, once you’ve seen the killer commit a murder, it’s just the same sequence repeated over and over again with little variation. Foree sits in the front seat, scopes out a potential victim, and offers soft-spoken encouragement to young Malvo crouched in the back with the sniper rifle protruding from a hole in the trunk. A few instances when Muhammad lectures Malvo on proper nutrition are about the only deviation from the formula.
The film follows a similar tiresome pattern. The snipers scope out their next target and murder them, Foree and other actors playing random citizens that either encountered John Allen Muhammad or had their lives impacted by the slayings in some fashion give black & white testimonials to the camera, lengthy montages with or without voiceover narration of the two law enforcement officials standing around with binoculars, walking around Washington, D.C. landmarks, or driving around the streets in search of the sniper – rinse and repeat, not necessarily in that order, until the ridiculous last shot of the movie that is indeed the last shot in more ways than one.
Much of this inaction is set to a comically over-the-top score, like that from a 1970’s conspiracy thriller cranked to the next power, ludicrous conveying the extreme urgency of what is happening on the screen even when there is absolutely no action, no tension, nothing whatsoever occurring on camera aside from guys with binoculars waltzing about random shots of District of Columbia locales. If this movie were as riveting as the bombastic score wants you to believe it is, D.C. Sniper would be one of the most suspenseful thrillers in the history of cinema.
Because the true story of shooting spree that set off widespread panic in the nation’s capitol over the course of three weeks back in 1992 wasn’t enough for Lommel to fill 76 minutes with, a subplot is introduced about the narrating officer’s runaway daughter being under the influence of a shady boyfriend that has gotten her mixed up in the world of online porn. Lommel tries to draw a parallel comparing how this man’s young daughter could be coerced into such extreme behavior to that of teenage Malvo being manipulated into committing murder by Muhammad, except the movie never delves one iota into what would make a kid like Malvo fall under the psychopathic influence of a loon like Muhammad. The inclusion of this appears to be merely an excuse to shoehorn in some gratuitous nudity when the cop staring at a laptop creepily watches a video of his daughter stripping.
John Alan Muhammad’s rants to the camera, nicely acted by Foree as they may be, remain nonetheless rambling diatribes espousing inane anti-government/corporate conspiracy theories mixed with cries for a need for violent revolution to facilitate real societal change in the country with infrequent outbursts about racial injustice tossed in for good measure. None of it provides any real insight to the method of his madness other than to confirm Muhammad was in fact mad in both senses of the word, as if that wasn’t obvious by his actions alone.
More “Dragnet” quality monotone voiceover introspection is provided by the gray-haired fed on the beat that may or may not be Ulli Lommel, and here is where the movie just gets plain weird. Complaints of preferential treatment for the protection of Washington’s money elite over the common citizen, oddball history lessons about acts of aggression in the early days of our nation straining to compare it to the sniper’s own brand of violent civil disobedience, and other assorted kooky paranoia about the fragile state of our democracy is what he prefers to talk about more so than the facts of the case.
Struggling to pay attention to either this cop or Muhammad, it became hard for me to tell at times if Lommel was attempting to provide insight into what makes a lunatic like the D.C. Sniper tick and how the killings shook the nation to its very core for 23 days or if Lommel was actually advocating on behalf of Muhammad’s deranged call for violent revolution. I kept waiting for Glenn Beck to appear with his mighty chalkboard to piece all of this nonsense together into one grand tear-filled conspiracy.
1 out of 5
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