Well, I finished watching another movie, so I might as well write about it. This time it’s War – which those of you who are outside the US might know as Rogue Assassin. It’s a Jet Li – Jason Statham vehicle that’s pretty interesting, but it has some room for improvement.
Before I get started writing the review though, a quick rundown on my review scores and what they mean. I score on a 1-to-10 integer scale (no fractions of a point). 1 is the worst, 10 is the best. 2-3 is crap, but with one or two redeeming factors. 5 is meh or generally mediocre. 7 is good, but not fantastic.
Jason Statham plays John Crawford, an FBI agent whose partner is murdered by an assassin named Rogue (played by Jet Li), and goes on a Ahab-esque search for revenge against the man who killed his partner, amongst an ever growing gang war between the Yakuza and Triads. Yeah, that’s a pretty slim (and generic sounding) plot synopsis, but I don’t want to spoil the whole movie for you.
First things first, if you’re coming in expecting a big chop socky movie, expect to be disappointed. The fighting in the movie tends to be very brawly, with a bit more gunfighting then most of Li’s other movies. That said, the fight scenes in this movie are pretty good, though they tend towards a brawl or a gunfight. Frankly, this works in the film’s favor, as while Statham has done some very good martial arts work in the two Transporter films, I wouldn’t expect him to kick Li’s ass (which was why I was disappointed when Mel Gibson and Danny Glover were able to beat Li hand-to-hand in Lethal Weapon 4.) That said the fight scenes in the movie were enjoyable, and it was nice seeing Li doing something a little different (such as slightly more significent gunplay, and more brawling rather then just Kung Fu.
The film’s plot, on the other hand, is kind of meh. It starts off taking equal bits of a cops and gangsters crime drama and a part of revenge thriller from the Action Movie Salad Bar, and tries to flavor things with some Xanatos Gambit dressing to provide the illusion of depth. Unfortunatly, the dressing is rather bland, and while it adds some motivation to a few characters, and allows for some fun on repeat viewings (particularly when looking for clues for the gambit before it’s formally revealed – there are a couple), it’s otherwise pretty generic.
The acting on the film, on the other hand, is very nice. I want to give major props to the director for putting a great deal of dialogue (especially plot-related dialogue) in Japanese and Chinese and subtitling it, rather then going with the conceit of having characters of an ethnicity who speak an ethnicity’s language speaking English for the sole benfit of the audience. (Glares at Midway). That said, the acting is very good as well, Li’s English has really improved, and both Statham and Li get some nice subtile moments in their performances which make for nice touches under repeat viewing (these are the clues for the Gambit, by the way). Everyone elses acting is alright as well, with nothing particularly painful, but nothing else that really stands out.
That perhaps, is the main weak point of the movie – nothing really stands out. It’s fairly generic, and frankly, Li could have been replaced with, say, Chow Yun-Fat or for that matter any other up-and-coming actor out of China, and Statham could have been played by, say, Mark Walberg or anyone else in that tier. I’d say that you should rent this movie before buying it.
Rating: 7 out of 10.