The pairing of action film icons Jet Li and Jason Statham should have been a match-up made in B-movie heaven, unfortunately WAR is sorely lacking in almost every department including the much hyped but very brief final showdown between these two. Directed with no nuance but plenty of visual flair by longtime music video helmer Philip G. Atwell this silly, derivative an overly confusing film is not much fun. Statham is lead agent of a special task force team hunting an asian assassin known as ‘Rouge’ through the streets of San Francisco. After the murder of his partner Statham becomes obsessed with finding the killer, all signs point to Rouge though he is presumed dead after a shootout with officers. It seems the assassin has indeed survived and has now resurfaced as part of an ongoing war between two mafia families. The thing Statham and his colleges don’t know is that Rouge is playing both sides against each other effectively instigating conflicts that will lead to the downfall of both clans.
The plot device used by writers Lee Anthony Smith and Gregory J. Bradley is ripped right from the Yojimbo playbook (or Last Man Standing for our younger readers), in the hands of master filmmakers like Akira Kurosawa or Sergio Leone this structure is an ideal milieu for the director to display their command of the craft. Mounting scenes of tension while constantly shifting audiences allegiances, in the films previously mentioned the gimmick is well handled. Now we have WAR and without a strong visionary behind the camera the film becomes reduced to a series of preordained actions and uninteresting characters.
Worse yet the match-up between Statham and Li feels like an afterthought, their minor battle ends with the death of one but not before a plot twist that is so out of left field it ranks as one of the goofiest final act revelations in recent cinema. I don’t believe the creative forces behind WAR were interested in delivering anything but a solid mid-level B-action film. Even by those presumably low standards they still managed to miss the mark. Not so much a bad film as a great wasted opportunity.
Director: Philip G. Atwell
Stars: Jet Li, Jason Statham, John Lone