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'D.C. Sniper' DVD Review

About.com Rating .5 Star Rating


DC Sniper
© North American

The Bottom Line

A cheap, slow, preachy "thriller" that never thrills.
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  • Ken Foree is solid
  • It's only about 70 minutes long


  • Low production value
  • Boring
  • Mediocre acting
  • Poor writing


  • Starring Ken Foree, Tory N. Thompson, Chris Kriesa, Ulli Lommel, Tamara Whatley, Howard M. Lockie, Nola Roeper, Jed Rowen
  • Directed by Ulli Lommel
  • Rated R
  • DVD Release Date: March 16, 2010

Guide Review - 'D.C. Sniper' DVD Review

German filmmaker Ulli Lommel's career began impressively enough, working with luminaries like Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Andy Warhol in the '70s and directing the acclaimed Tenderness of the Wolves (1973), an account of real-life German serial killer Fritz Haarmann -- the man who inspired Frtiz Lang's classic M. In 1980, Lommel entered the horror realm with The Boogeyman, which became a surprise hit in the US -- in part because of graphic violence that led to its banning in the UK.

Lommel vanished from the biz in the mid-'80s, however, and came back from nowhere in the early 21st century with a rapid-fire string of direct-to-video awfulness -- mostly (dubiously) fact-based stories of real-life serial killers like the BTK Killer, the Zodiac Killer, the Night Stalker and the Son of Sam. His latest effort -- about his twentieth since 2004 -- focuses on the 2002 Washington DC-area shooting spree perpetrated by John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo.

Basically, the film cuts back and forth between three loose "plots": Malvo (Tory N. Thompson) and Muhammad (Ken Foree) drive around shooting random victims, an FBI agent (Chris Kriesa) posing as a tourist and a local cop (Lommel himself) posing as a cowboy (!) scout the DC area for suspicious activity, and various people affected by the murder spree -- including Muhammad himself -- spout off to the camera in black-and-white "confessionals" about how the murders have affected them, what should be done, why it's being done, yadda yadda yadda. It's all narrated by a pompous Dragnet-styled voice over that preaches ad nauseum about patriotism, terrorism and war.

D.C. Sniper is typical of Lommel's 21st century reinvention as a true crime hack: it's dirt cheap (seemingly filmed on a low-end consumer video camera straight off the shelves of Radio Shack), technically poor (the sound is uneven, with dialogue often drowned out by traffic, and the score is over the top and out of place), lethargically paced, factually inaccurate, pseudo-"deep" and just plain ridiculous (How long can we watch a cop and an FBI agent conspicuously standing around with a camera and binoculars, just hoping to spot the killers? And, of course, THEY DO.).

Perhaps because Tenderness of the Wolves is the most (only?) acclaimed of his films, Lommel is seeking to recreate its based-on-a-true-story formula, but his efforts are so bad (routinely in IMDb's bottom 100) you wonder how he ever directed anything NOT horrible.

I lived in the DC area during the sniper attacks, and this film doesn't come close to capturing the tension and paranoia of the time. Instead, Lommel seems more concerned with coming up with cockamamie subplots about the FBI agent's missing daughter and conspiracy theories about Muhammad being given Gulf War Syndrome as part of a military test than with mining the rich subject matter for the terror inherent in the situation.


Special features include a stills gallery.

Movie: D-

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Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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