Genre: Action Running Time: 1 hr. 43 min.
Release Date: August 24th, 2007 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Philip G. Atwell Actors: Jet Li, Jason Statham, John Lone, Devon Aoki, Luis Guzman, Saul Rubinek, Nadine Velazquez, Andrea Roth, Steph Song
he blithesome action and wacky characters of Jason Statham’s previous martial arts flicks are nowhere to be found in “War.” Here, the action is heavy and the violence is brutal, with almost no pause for comedy relief. The red flows freely in this intense experience – one that actually suits Statham’s demeanor more readily than his sugarcoated PG-13 endeavors of late, with the star certainly feeling at home with cursing and drawing blood. Though “War” is relatively light on actual kung fu, there are still plenty of fierce shootouts, wild car chases, and fiery explosions. The darker atmosphere might lead viewers to believe that some real depth exists in the overly intricate plot, but the seasoned genre enthusiast will quickly catch on to the shortcomings regularly generated as a result of bridging one stunt-filled scene to another. But few people are attending a Jet-Li-versus-Jason-Statham movie for a poignant story.
When the partner of FBI agent Jack Crawford (Jason Statham) is viciously killed by the ghostly assassin known as Rogue (Jet Li), the desperate cop will stop at nothing to exact revenge. Hunting down Rogue, Jack becomes caught up in the hitman’s web of deception and betrayal as he pits the Yakuza against the Triad to start an all-out war. In the process, families will be torn apart (literally, when heads end up in gift boxes), factions united and dissolved, and identities concealed and revealed.
While it’s refreshing to see hard-hitting, blood-letting violence in an arena of dumbed-down action films, “War” fails to put it’s edgier merits to good use. Namely, Jet Li, a staple of martial arts extravaganzas, is underused and under-appreciated in his role as ultra-secretive assassin. Like Jackie Chan, who, during his long career making American features, caters toward humorous, prop-based brawls, Jet Li possesses a specific brand of adventure that generally employs bone-breaking maneuvers, harsh language, and sexuality/nudity – for a decidedly maturer vibe. And while “War” does in fact include those components, Jet Li doesn’t get much of a chance to showcase his signature moves. The film is filled with far more gunfights and car chases than hand-to-hand combat, which wastes the talents of the cast, as well as the skills of famed fight choreographer Cory Yuen (“The One” [which also paired Li with Statham], “The Transporter,” “Kiss of the Dragon”).
The cannonades of machinegun fire in every other scene are duly noted, but it’s nevertheless unfulfilling to have Jet Li, Jason Statham, and even Devon Aoki (who previously engaged in some samurai swordplay in “Sin City” and “DOA: Dead or Alive”) in a project that features so little of the classic, gun-free, flailing-fist face-offs. But to fully appreciate a movie like “War,” one must be in the right mindset to forgive the limited scope of this one-note production. Action and violence take priority over plot; death and destruction are necessities and can strike anyone; and the terms “good guy” and “bad guy” are practically interchangeable – and rarely presented with clarity. To mention the lifting of the premise from “Yojimbo” would surely displease Akira Kurosawa, but it’s obvious that “War” isn’t afraid to steal from the best for its tepid, bigger-budgeted, glossy modernization.
– The Massie Twins