|The idea of pairing Jet Li and Jason Statham together in an action movie sounds fantastic. War is just the opposite. It is dull, cliched, stupid, and takes itself so seriously that it falls into parody. The main problem (saying a lot with this film) is in its two principals. They are playing the wrong characters. Li (Fearless, Unleashed) is Rogue, the world's best assassin, who is caught in the middle of a war in San Francisco between the Yakuza and the Triads (for those who don't know, that's Japanese organized crime versus Chinese organized crime). Statham (Crank, The Pink Panther) is Jack Crawford, a FBI Agent trying to track Rogue down for personal reasons. Li is the bad guy, and Statham is the good guy. Li always played the good guy in his Chinese movies. When he made his play at being an American star, he tried branching out. This has not worked, as he typically does not make a convincing antagonist. The only time he did was in Lethal Weapon 4. Worse, he claims that he retired from making martial arts movies, so War has very few martial arts action sequences. Li has always been a better fighter than an actor, which leaves the audience watching a bad actor play an unconvincing villain. Statham fares a bit better. He works best as a bad guy, or as a good guy with some bad streaks. He is more along the lines of the latter here, but the lines and backstory given to his character are so loopy that he too is unconvincing.
The concept of a war amongst Asian organized crime is fantastic, but again, the idea falters. Director Philip G. Atwell and writers Lee Anthony Smith and Gregory J. Bradley choose to tell this story through the Caldwell character. In an extended prologue that takes place three years ago, Caldwell and his partner nearly catch Rogue. Days later, as an act of retribution, Rogue murders his partner and his partner's family. This severely affects Caldwell, who now dedicates most of his passion towards finding and killing Rogue. Lucky for him that suddenly reappears. He has forsaken the Yakuza and is now working for Chang (John Lone, Paper Moon, Bamboo Shoot), leader of the Triad in San Francisco. Rogue is actually playing both sides, inciting some of the more volatile underlings to fight and kill off each other. Caldwell mopes a lot and tries to get into Rogues head, but Rogue always manages to stay two steps ahead of him.
War soon descends into action movie dim-wittedness. It is pretty pathetic when the most memorable scene in the film is one of completely gratuitous nudity (that's Meghan Flather, by the way). Everything else is dumb and forgettable. For the world's best assassin, Rogue sure is sloppy. A plot twist late in the film tries to explain away the film and provide a eureka moment to filmgoers, but does just the opposite. It muddles the film even further. Atwell spends most of the movie setting up a final explosive confrontation between Rogue and Caldwell, and when it finally happens, it's a huge let down.
|Haro Rates It: Pretty Bad.|
|1 hour, 43 minutes, Rated R for sequences of strong bloody violence, sexuality/nudity, and language.|
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