War (2007)

Rating: **
Review Date: 8/26/07
Action Director: Corey Yuen Kwai
Cast: Jason Statham, Jet Li, Devon Aoki, John Lone, Ryo Ishibashi, Mark Cheng, Kane Kosugi, Terry Chen

An unremarkable action thriller with the bitter aftertaste of knowing that it could have and should have been a lot better. When FBI agent Jack Crawford's (Jason Statham) partner is killed by a legendary assassin known as "Rogue," he focuses his entire life on revenge. Three years later, Rogue resurfaces in the guise of Jet Li and ignites a turf war between a Japanese Yakuza clan ruled by Ryo Ishibashi and a Hong Kong triad family run by John Lone. Just whose side is this guy on, anyway? Crawford is in hot pursuit, but outsmarted and outclassed at every turn until the ridiculous plot-twist ending. More proof that screenwriters and drugs don't mix very well.

As a straight-forward action film with guns, fast cars, and explosions it's fairly serviceable, but with a cast of so many accomplished martial artists (Jet Li, Jason Statham, Mark Cheng, Kane Kosugi, etc.) you feel ultimately cheated. If you put Statham and Li in a movie together you want to see them fight, but the film fails to deliver the goods. They finally get into it in the last five minutes of the film, but poor camerawork and editing robs us of Corey Yuen's choreography and the performance of the two leads. Kane Kosugi also gets to fight with Li, but again the results are obscured. Surprisingly, it's the stately Ryo Ishibashi who steals the show, and his swordfights with Kosugi and Li are the highlights of the film. Jason Statham delivers a solid performance doing what he does best - silent brooding with occasional eruptions of rage. The super cool and supremely stoic Rogue is no stretch for Jet Li, but when he does melt into the slightest bit of emotional expression, it's very compelling. The car chases are fast and frantic, but jerky and edited too quickly to savor. If you go into a movie like this with no expectations you might be entertained, but knowing that the cast is capable of SO much more only sets you up for disappointment.