Anytime you put Jason Statham or Jet Li into an action flick, you know there’ll be fireworks. So, what happens when you put them both in the same movie? Well, in The One, they were terrific, but the movie tried to hard to be substantial and missed its target. WAR, on the other hand, takes a traditional martial arts/yakuza revenge formula, cranks up the adrenaline and tosses in a couple of nifty twists to make it just a little bit more entertaining than the average action flick…
Let’s face it, when you’ve got Jet Li and Jason Statham in the same movie, you’re not going to be expecting heavy-duty drama or emoting [even though both actors have shown themselves to have some pretty decent acting chops]. WAR opens with FBI Agent John Crawford [Statham] and his partner, Tom Lone [Terry Chen] foiling a crime – which leads to an assassin called Rogue [Jet Li] killing Lone and his family].
It takes three years before Rogue turns up again, but Crawford quickly zeros in on him [he’s become so obsessed with avenging his partner that it’s cost him his wife and daughter, who’ve left him]. While Crawford is hunting Rogue, the assassin is not behaving like a traditional Asian – he’s doing things to get the Japanese Yakuza [for whom he is supposedly working] to go to war with the Chinese Triads, turning San Francisco into a potential war zone.
On Yakuza leader Shiro’s [Ryo Ishibashi] orders, Rogue has cozied up to Chang [John Lone], the Triad leader as a way to recover a pair of stolen statuettes of horses. His hope is to destroy Chang and regain the honor that was lost with the theft of his property. Chang, on the other hand, seeks to run the crime in San Francisco in a more modern and business-like manner. To do so, Shiro’s Yakuza must be destroyed.
The plot of WAR is a bit on the complex side and yet, given the relentless pacing achieved by director Philip G. Atwell, it looks and feels like a standard revenge flick until the third act when everything go to hell in the proverbial handbasket – for all four parties.
Though Statham and Li lock horns only once, it’s a decent [if brief] brawl that ends with the second of the movie’s two major twists. As entertaining is a terrific bit of swordplay between Li and Ishibashi. Devon Aoki [as Shiro’s daughter, Kira] is, unfortunately, mostly window dressing – though she does get a cool moment when she deals with two of her father’s impolite subordinates.
A number of the best character actors around – including Saul Rubinek [a plastic surgeon who worked on Rogue’s new face], Luis Guzman [operator of an underground fight club] – and a couple more talented ladies [Rescue Me’s Andrea Roth as Crawford’s ex, and Nadine Velasquez as Chang’s wife] do a lot with what little they’re given to work with.
Atwell mixes flashes of John Woo-style gunplay – the now clichéd diving through the air with two guns blazing [but somehow fresh when it’s Jet Li pulling the triggers] – with Cory Yuen’s martial arts choreography and combines them with scenes that require some raw emotion from his stars. The result is not a classic but, rather, a decently entertaining ninety-nine minutes of agreeable mayhem. Just the thing for an afternoon during the dog days of August.
Final Grade: B-
Eclipse Review Posted by Sheldon Wiebe
Originally Posted 08/24/07
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