Tuesday , November 28 2023

Blu-ray Review: ‘Fortress: Sniper’s Eye’ Starring Bruce Willis

Here’s what you need to know about the action thriller Fortress: Sniper’s Eye, new to Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD from Lionsgate. It’s a sequel to Fortress (2021), which was set in a deluxe retirement complex for retired U.S. intelligence agents. In fact, Sniper’s Eye picks up directly after that earlier film. Bruce Willis is prominently billed in each, though his Robert Michaels is really a supporting character. Robert’s son, Paul (Jesse Metcalfe), is the leading man here. If you missed the first Fortress, the new film includes flashbacks to fill you in on the whereabouts of the villainous Frederick Balzary (Chad Michael Murray). Balzary and his evil cohorts had infiltrated the so-called Fortress (the aforementioned retirement home) to wreak havoc. History is about to repeat itself.

Of course, Willis went public with his aphasia diagnosis earlier this year. Sniper’s Eye is one of several direct-to-video features completed before his retirement announcement. With few exceptions (M. Night Shyamalan’s Glass in 2019 and Eli Roth’s Death Wish remake in 2018 being prominent examples), Willis has been cranking out this type of film for roughly the past ten years. As a true-blue fan (I nearly said “die hard fan”—a bit too cute, no?) of Willis’, I’ve seen many (probably most) of these films. If I had no prior knowledge of his neurological condition, which apparently was noticeable to those working with him, I probably wouldn’t have thought anything was amiss. Sniper’s Eye isn’t such a rote actioner, no one really needs to do much to keep the gears turning (Murray turns in the liveliest work in both films.

The fact is, Willis has delivered a peculiarly reserved style of performance for the majority of these low-budget quickies. Some directors who’ve worked with him in recent years have talked about the need to simplify dialogue, utilize body doubles for action sequences, deliver lines via an earpiece, among other claims. But even ten years ago in films like Fire with Fire (released even prior to his final outing as John McClane in the fifth Die Hard), it seemed that Willis was phoning it in for these DTV flicks.

At any rate, knowing now that it was in fact a struggle for the legendary star to turn in even a rudimentary performance lends a different feeling to Sniper’s Eye. The plot is difficult to follow—something about Chad Michael Murray’s villainous Balzary concocting a scheme to steal silver. The visuals are decidedly perfunctory. Ever have friends over to watch a movie, only to discover they’re more interested in chit-chatting? This is the exact kind of movie you can throw on and just sort of half-watch while carrying on conversations. You don’t even really need to pause it when getting snacks, there’s not much to miss.

The conundrum for Willis fans (and just to be clear, when I said “true blue fan,” I’ve even got both of the albums he released The Return of Bruno and If It Don’t Kill You, It Just Makes You Stronger—and I legitimately enjoy them), is it better to rewatch classics like The Sixth Sense, The Last Boy Scout, and 12 Monkeys or continue muddling through these DTV films? There are some overlooked and/or forgotten gems in his filmography like Color of Night that are far better usages of time than stuff like Fortress: Sniper’s Eye.

Lionsgate’s Blu-ray contains a short ‘making of’ featurette that is amusing only because director Josh Sternfeld and some of the cast members (Willis does not participate) carry on about this film as if they were crafting Apocalypse Now. As it stands, Fortress: Sniper’s Eye is neither so-bad-it’s-good, nor so-bad-it’s-unwatchable. It just kind of sits there, not doing much, while you and your friends get caught up on more interesting topics.

About The Other Chad

An old co-worker of mine thought my name was Chad. Since we had two Chads working there at the time, I was "The Other Chad."

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