WAR (aka. ROGUE ASSASSIN, Asian title) is the 2nd movie that puts together Jason Statham and Jet Li. Remember, "The One"? I don't blame you; I barely recall the film myself. This film has a very interesting cast; two popular action stars set to collide in the big screen. With fight choreography by Corey Yuen, it looks very promising. Did it deliver on its expectations? (I've been reviewing too many Korean films of late so I thought I'd review one that I saw in theaters months ago, my draft has just been sitting in my computer)
An F.B.I. agent named Jack Crawford (Jason Statham) is obsessed in finding his partner's killer and bringing the assassin called "Rogue" (Jet Li) to justice. Rogue is a ruthless killer, apparently if the Yakuza wants someone taken care of; they send this cold and accurate assassin. After disappearing from sight for a few years, Rogue resurfaces in the San Francisco Bay Area. Apparently, he has switched sides, and is now working for the Chinese Triad headed by Chang (John Lone). Jack is so fixated in nabbing Rogue that his very presence fills him with rage. However, Rogue takes Jack's presence as very entertaining and quite amusing. It seems that Rogue has a hidden agenda...
Music video director Philip Atwell is at the helm with "War"; his experience filming music videos certainly shows in this outing. The style is pretty routine and nothing is spectacular. One thing I can say, is that most of the sequences weren't shot in San Francisco; (I live in San Francisco so I can tell) wherever it WAS filmed it was so convenient. Yakuza territory is made of Sushi bars and Triad territory is mostly, well, Chinese food places. The Asian gangsters have the usual stereotype inherent in other action films. I did find the fetish in Asian clubs quite amusing.
The last time I saw Jet Li as the antagonist was in Lethal Weapon 4; Li upstages Statham in terms of dynamic charisma, he portrays Rogue as a silent but intense presence. Statham's character seemed a bit too clichéd, and suffers too much from the same old "cop-on-the-edge" gimmick. Li plays a good anti-hero as Rogue, with his classic manipulations to set the Triad against Yakuza. The classic manipulations kind of reminded me of older films, I couldn't put my finger on it until my friend mentioned Yojimbo and Shogun Assassin. The Yakuza crime lord is played by Ryu Ishibashi (Cure) with his daughter played by hottie Devon Aoki (D.O.A.). It was obvious that Aoki is in the film for eye-candy and not much else.
Not to say that the screenplay lacked inspiration. The interesting plot twists seemed poised to turn the film into something quite good. The first twist showed some promise although it may require a large suspension of disbelief; we are expected to believe that everything is just so well executed and calculated. I almost don't want to mention the 2nd twist, because they should have stopped with the first one. The second twist made the movie seemed a bit overcooked; it seemed too forced. It called too much attention to itself to astonish without any credibility. I cannot disclose anymore information because I may end up spoiling the film a little. I really felt like the film would have ended better. (I'm curious to see if the dvd will have an alternate ending, It certainly needs one) The plot devices/twists seemed more fit in a police morality drama, but in a standard action film, the pacing seemed to hamper the film a little.
Now did the film at least actually deliver on the fight sequences? Well, there are ninjas and a decent routine swordfight. We even see Kane Kosuji in action (for a few seconds anyway). The film is pretty solid as a commercial/mainstream action movie. There is a lot of marketing devices; gang conflicts with a few effective twists and turns, a hint of nudity, some T & A, cardboard cutout characters, blood with kinetic action sequences. The film isn't so bad as long as one remembers its target audience; testosterone-laden males (like me). Action director Corey Yuen made better action scenes before, but for action junkies, it may still prove diverting.
WAR is a MIXED bag, it doesn't offer anything we haven't seen before. It has the potential to become a truly fresh and entertaining action film, but it stumbles in the standard plot devices and the routine conflicts. The action sequences are decent, but somewhat lacking in intensity and emotion. Emotion plays an important part an excellent fight scene; the direction just didn't make the effort to show such emotional impact.
There is just something missing in "War" that it wasn't as effective as I wanted it to be. I've seen a lot of great action sequences, and the ones in "War" are definitely NOT in the upper tier. If you're a Jet Li fan, you've definitely seen him in MUCH better fight sequences such as in my personal favorite; "Kiss of the Dragon" (modern action) or in his past Hong Kong films. To its credit, (at the very least) the fight scenes are better than the ones in "Cradle to the Grave" but only by a hair.
Maybe I've just seen too many Asian action films.
Maybe Recommended to Action fanatics and Rental for everybody else. [3- Stars]
HYPE Level: Jet Li is one of the world's premier action stars. Jason Statham Proved his Worth in "The Transporter". Corey Yuen is one of Asia's most acclaimed Fight choreographers. This Movie fell so short of its own Hype. It fails as a definitive Statham-Li rumble.
This poorly directed movie is also a big letdown as the viewer is looking for an epic fight between the two biggest martial arts stars that never really happens (they fight uninspired for about 30 seconds). There was also the possibility of either star taking on the female martial artist from Sin City and that never happens either. In this one Statham is an FBI Agent who is hunting Rogue (Li), an assassin who supposedly killed his partner and partner's family. … more
I'm a huge fan of action movies. I have yet to see a movie with Jet Li or Jason Statham that I didn't like. This was a "keep you on the seat of your pants" movie that kept me entertained until it was over. I can't believe how much of a difference Blu-ray can make!
WAR sets up the viewer with promises (Jason Statham, Jet Li in his first movie as a straight actor i.e. post-martial arts), but for the most part those promises are not delivered. What is put on the screen for what seems like an endless evening is more killing with guns, knives, fire, explosions, and every other kind of death device imaginable delivered by minimal story and substandard acting. It is loud, gory, and boring - until the final few minutes when the story actually gains a plot. Lee … more
Pitting Hong Kong legend Jet Li against UK tough guy Jason Statham seems like a surefire way to generate on-screen heat, and action fans will get a good deal of just that from the action-heavyWar. Unfortunately, they also have to slog through a clichéd-riddled story about world-weary FBI agent Statham, who's gunning for Li, the master assassin that killed his partner years before, and who's currently neck-deep in a turf war between yakuza and triad gangs. Philip G. Atwell's style-over-substance direction doesn't help matters either, though he does have a way with shootouts and other combative set pieces. As for Li and Statham, their scenes together are surprisingly limited; there's also a twist in the film's final third that begs for serious suspension of disbelief. In short, those that found the duo's last movie team-up (2001'sThe One) lacking won't find much here to supplant that memory. The DVD includes three commentary tracks: one by Atwell, one by screenwriters Lee Anthony Smith and Gregory J. Bradley (it's the liveliest of the lot) and an audio trivia track that delves deep into the film's production, which is also covered in detail by nine separate featurettes. A gag reel and deleted/extended scenes round out the supplemental features.-- Paul Gaita