Ulli Lommel is a director that I have always loved because of his dedication to cheesy biopic horror. His films are always horrible, but they usually manage to have one interesting performance, and his low budget special effects are entertaining. Unfortunately his attempt to work his horror magic on the DC Sniper falls tragically short. His version of events surrounding the DC Sniper feel oddly watered down coming from director who usually goes out of his way to ramp up the gore and insanity of his films. As if what the DC Sniper did was so horrible that he had to soften it up just to make the film bearable.
In 2002 John Allen Mohammed and his adopted son Lee Boyd Malvo, went on a shooting spree in Washington DC and the surrounding suburbs. After their ninth murder the pair sent a rambling letter to the police. Their manifesto demanded a ten million dollar payment in exchange for the stopping the murders. The letter sent to the authorities claimed that the duo were out to destroy the American government as punishment for the way they had treated the black man throughout the ages. When the pair was finally caught they continued to spew their racist dribble until they were convicted of the murders. Since he was only 17 Malvo was sentenced to life in prison. Mohammad was sentenced to death and was ultimately executed in last year.
What the film leaves out, is while Mohammad was no doubt racist scum, racism and toppling the government wasn't his true target. Mohammad organized the shootings in an attempt to murder his ex-wife,who had moved to the DC suburbs. He didn't know exactly where she lived, so the plan was to commit a series of random shootings in the hopes of flushing her out somehow. An infinitely more sinister plot, that is barely explored in this movie. Lommel eludes to Mohammad having lady troubles with the brief introduction of a girlfriend, but her role in the story is reduced to a two minute scene of her telling him to kick bricks. Turning what could have been a significant plot point into a mere after thought. Strange for a guy who usually exploits every psychological kink of his subject for maximum gore. I guess horrible serial killer violence is OK as long it doesn't venture into the realm of domestic violence. DC Sniper even shows Lommel is off of his writing game. While he's trying to tell the story of the DC Sniper, he's also trying to weave in a secondary story of one of the cops that was trying to catch him. The two plot lines don't mesh well at all. Where the scenes with the sniper's are written to show off the twisted logic and Mohammed and Boyd, the cop scenes have an film noir vibe that just doesn't fit in with the rest of the story. He wants to tell both the story of the DC Sniper's and a single story about one of the men trying to catch him. And it doesn't work both ways, you're either going to tell the story of the DC Sniper, or tell the story of the man that caught him.
The single bright spot of the film is Ken Foree as John Allen Mohammd. This isn't his best work by any stretch of the imagination, but he does manage to deliver great crazy. In fact it's his performance that leaves you with the impression that there is a lot more going on with this guy than just being a racist that hates the government. He plays Mohammad as a man seething with rage and entitlement. His body tells you that this guy is holding back, and that the real story may be something more sinister that over throwing the White House.
No matter how cheesy his films are, Lommel, has always been a director that takes risks with his work. Compared to his other work, DC Sniper may be just as cheesy, but it is also very restrained. I don't know why he lost his balls with this film, but he has. Leaving DC Sniper a flat lifeless waste of cinema space, not the awesomely bad gore fest that we have come to know and love.