STUDIO: Lionsgate
MSRP: $19.99
RUNNING TIME: 103 minutes

  • Commentary by director Philip Atwood
  • Commentary by writers Lee Anthony Smith and Gregory Bradley
  • The Action of War featurettes
  • Scoring War featurette
  • Deleted / extended scenes
  • Gag reel

Oliver’s Note: There’s one teeny weeny little NSFW picture at the very bottom.

The Pitch

Almost only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades and Li / Statham re-pairings…

The Humans

Jet Li, Jason Statham, John Lone, Ryo Ishibashi, Devon Aoki, Luis Guzman, Sung Kang, Saul Rubinek.

The Nutshell

When Tom Lone, the partner of FBI Agent John Crawford (Statham) is brutally murdered along with his family by a Japanese assassin known only as Rogue, Crawford is on a mission to see the killer brought to justice. Meanwhile, Rogue has changed his face after having it nearly shot off by Lone, which spurred him to kill Lone and his family. Now looking very much like Jet Li, Rogue is playing a cat and mouse game with both the Japanese Yakuza and Chinese Triads of San Francisco, trying to get them to destroy each other, for reasons known only to him. Rogue’s actions inevitably bring him back into contact with Crawford, and as they work the pending Asian gang war from their prospective sides of the law, they have some unfinished business with each other.

"You know, Jet, it’s really cool to work with you again. We had some good times on our last flick."
"Uh, Mr. Statham, you know I’m not Jet Li…right?"
"Wait a minute, are you trying to tell me that you’re not Jet Li?!"
"N-No, Mr. Statham!!"
"I thought not. Now did we have some bloody good times or not, Jet?"
"Yes, Mr. Statham…"

The Lowdown

On paper, War looks like it has all the makings of a great action film. I mean how could it lose? It has two of the best ass kickers in film today – Statham and Li – and they’re fixing to throw down on each other for the first time. East meets West as Li brings some of the most stunning Chinese martial arts ever seen this side of Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan, and Statham is pretty much ruling the planet right now as the most macho guy in film. I mean honestly, show me somebody with more hair on his chest and I”ll have Statham go and kick his ass for you. Anyway, set these two gentlemen’s impending smackdown against an Asian gang war milieu, with bullets flying and chops being sockied, and there’s no way that War couldn’t be the ass-handing fest of the year right? Well, yes…sorta, but truthfully, more to the n-o.

"What the F&*k do you mean you don’t like Madeleines?!!"

For one thing, although there are some quite good fighting scenes here, they’re so few and far between, that the film has to rely way too heavily on the storyline of Rogue’s Machiavellian machinations in pitting the Yakuza and Triads against each other. And Jet Li gets to spend much too little time doing what he does best – handing people their spines – and much too much time doing what he’s not quite so good at: emoting. Li spends a majority of the film looking disaffected, and he’s just not able to pull off that he’s a highly intelligent and cunning manipulator. And quite frankly, he seems to sleepwalk through much of the role, struggling to get the feelings on the screen. He doesn’t have any of the emotional fire you’d see in some of his other work, especially Unleashed. And the sheer menace that he portrayed as Wah Sing Ku in Lethal Weapon 4 is simply missing from Rogue.

Then there’s Statham. Actually there isn’t too much wrong with John Crawford, other than he’s a fairly by-the-numbers action hero with not much personality other than the fact that he’ll show someone their pancreas if they F with him. If it wasn’t Staham in the role, I’d almost discount the character completely. Crawford is dealt a disservice in that the film really should have focused more on his pursuit of Rogue than just his cleaning up of Rogue’s bodies. Crawford and Rogue have actually very little interaction with each other and only two action scenes against each other, both of which are way too brief. I was looking for Face/Off-type of hero / villain confrontation action here and I’m left with something just short of Star Trek II’s Kirk-Khan back and forth. They do have some fisticuffs, but it’s just as much face time only, which just squanders both actors’ talents and the whole premise of the movie.

"Yeah, Elite Escorts? It’s Statham. Yeah, have a dozen girls waiting for me at my hotel…and make sure their health insurance is paid up…"

There is a story here, though, and it’s a little surprising how detailed it is. If you read other reviews, the word Hitchcockian is tossed around now and then. That’s, well in a word – silly – but that comparison mostly comes from the fact that there are two sizeable twists to this film, of which I can honestly say I didn’t see coming. But with the conflict misfires the film suffers from, they’re almost wasted. And please, for the love of God, could we please delete the curriculum of blipvert action cutting from Director School. PLEASE? Director Philip Atwell, making his theatrical debut structures his action and story pretty judiciously, but he’s another graduate of the Greengrass (guy’s a genius filmmaker but you know the old criticism) editing seminar and it infuriates that when he’s allowing Statham to cut loose against a tea house full of killers, and you can barely get any sense of it all.

In supporting roles, there’s a couple of notables including Luis Guzman, and John Lone, who it’s nice to see again. Devon Aoki continues to prove that her best speaking part to date was definitely Miho. I’m sure you get what I’m driving at here. Although she was better than she was in 2 Fast 2 Furious, if that means anything. And lord knows what Saul Rubinek was doing in this movie in a completely throw away, almost cameo-level appearance. He has one scene, with one purpose, near the end, and then he’s gone. Rubinek is the biggest wasted talent in a film that seems to specialize in it.

Upon seeing this before him, Jet Li asked the director what to do and the director told him do what comes naturally. Consequently, the girl’s teeth have all been recovered and most of the broken bones are mending rather nicely…

I look back and War and am just left wondering, "man, all this film needed was ‘X’ and you’d have yourself something rivalling either of the leads’ better or even best films." Unfortunately that ‘X’ was more interpersonal booty-whoopin’ and the action fan is left starving for it. Offhand I’d say this is nowhere near a war, but more of a slapfight.

The Package

There’s a pretty fair amount of goodies here, starting with two commentary tracks, one by Atwell and one by first-time writers Lee Anthony Smith and Gregory Bradley. There’s also an audio trivia track. There’s a satisfying collection of nine behind-the-scenes featurettes under the banner The Action of War that total about 80 minutes dealing with all the key action sequences of the film. Another featurette, Scoring War runs about nine minutes and deals with the music. There’s also three deleted / extended scenes and a short gag reel.

6.6 out of 10