Sunday, 4 January 2009
Directed by: Phillip G. Atwell
Written by: Lee Anthony Smith & Gregory J. Bradley
Starring: Jet Li, Jason Statham & Devon Aoki
War is never really sure what it wants to be. Is it a full throttle action flick? Not really, though that is the way it was sold. Is it a gritty thriller about Triads, Yakuza and deadly assassins? Not really either, though again it does try and in some scenes comes pretty close. It’s a bit of both: there’s some action, there’s some drama, there’s some double crossing and there is quite a bit of talking from loads and loads of characters (something the trailer certainly didn’t play up). Li and Statham have made their fair share of Hollywood action pics, even one together before this (The One) and War is certainly not their best but far from their worst (Li’ worst being Romeo Must Die, Statham’s, I dunno, maybe The Italian Job, that was pretty bad). Li is a deadly assassin called Rogue who is trying to spark a war (for various convoluted reasons) between local Triads and Yakuza. Statham and his partner get in his way, the partner predictably killed and setting Statham on a quest for moody vengeance. Thus, all hell breaks loose. Well, it eventually does, sort of and then just kind of ends.
The problem with War is that there just isn’t enough grit and oomph to make it a tough thriller and not enough action to make it a fun action movie. The production is slick, the cast filled with familiar faces but it all kind of goes nowhere until a twist comes out of left field, followed by another one immediately afterwards and then, as mentioned, everything just kinda ends. Li looks bored, never really fights and often seems like he can’t wait to get out of there. Statham does his thing, is pretty good and rarely gets to fight either. The flick at least tries to take its story seriously, maybe a little too much sometimes, but doesn’t quite have the conviction to sell it. Everything is pretty standard up until those twists make an appearance and there is unfortunately too many characters popping up here, there and everywhere, that after a while you just kinda go, “Huh, who was that?” The action isn’t too great either. It’s not bad apart from a very sloppy scene that opens the film but nothing spectacular and never frequent enough. A car chase is all but spoilt by awful back projection (whatever happened to actually having actors drive around for real?) but there is a cool, hard hitting shootout/fight in a Japanese teahouse. But with Li, Statham and action maestro Cory Yuen (Kiss of the Dragon) on board, this really should have been better.
Still, War is entertaining in fits and starts some scenes working very well, such as Statham and his partner sitting having a chat as the opening credits roll. Once again, it’s not as bad you might have heard but Li and Statham fans will probably be disappointed and what is up with the abrupt ending? Distinctly average.