Directed by: Philip G. Atwell
Premise: A super assassin (Jet Li) manipulates feuding Chinese and Japanese crime families, pushing them into a self-destructive gang war, while an FBI agent (Jason Statham) purses the assassin to avenge the death of his partner.
What Works: Jet Li and Jason Statham have established film careers in the action and martial arts genres and each one has crafted a screen persona that they often replicate in each of their films, much like Arnold Schwarzenegger did in his action films and what Clint Eastwood and John Wayne did in their Western films. Li often plays Zen-warrior types who have a tortured soul and Statham has crafted an image as a badass loner with integrity. What War does well is to combine these two and let them play out their roles together, using the strengths of their each actor’s niche. The film uses the complex and lightening fast fight scenes of Li’s work with the smart talking shoot ‘em up sequences that populate Statham’s filmography. The combination works and both actors deliver what has been expected of them. The story works pretty well, borrowing from Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name trilogy (A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly) in his character’s manipulation of the two families and Statham’s pursuit has a satisfying intensity about it that pushes it just above the usual obsessive cop stereotype.
What Doesn’t: Although the film plays well, a lot of it is made of things we have seen before in these actor’s other films and it certainly does not do them better. Unlike Freddy Vs. Jason, which in a very similar way combined two franchises, played to the strengths of both, and then gave them a adrenaline shot that made familiar territory fresh again, War wallows in a lot of recycled bits and stunts. The film does go for some unique twists at the very end, but it hurts as much as it helps because the twists come dangerously close to the annoying and alienating resolution of films like High Tension.
Bottom Line: It does not have the grace of Jet Li’s Hero or the energy of Jason Statham’s Crank, but War is a satisfying combination of the two actor’s talents. Not much in it is new, but it’s certainly not boring either.
Episode: #154 (August 26, 2007)