AKA: Rogue Assassin
Year of release: 2007
Director: Philip Atwell
Action director: Corey Yuen
Producers: Steve Chasman, Christopher Petzel, Jim Thompson
Writers: Lee Smith, Gregory Bradley
Cinematography: Pierre Morel
Editor: Scott Richter
Music: Brian Tyler
Stars: Jet Li, Jason Statham, John Lone, Mark Cheng, Devon Aoki, Luis Guzman
Rated R for violence, brief nudity, and language
Lionsgate's Blu-ray is a solid release that is worth buying, especially for the discounted price you can find it for now.
The film itself is presented well, with a 1080p picture in a 2.40:1 ratio. The soundtrack is available in 7.1 PCM and 5.1 Dolby EX and sounds great for the most part. English and Spanish subtitles are available.
As for the disc, it has a good amount of extras, including an audio commentary with the screenwriters, a visual commentary with the director, a trivia audio track, deleted/extended scenes, gag reel, a featurette about the film's score, a 75-minute feature that details how the action scenes were made, and a Flash-style game.
The Blu-ray and DVD are available from Amazon.
Jet Li's 2007 US production War is notable for having really nothing notable about it. A highly generic action picture, War isn't bad, but it's nothing remarkable either. It's just kind of there. Actually, to call this "a Jet Li movie" is a bit of a misnomer, because you could take pretty much any other Chinese (or Asian, really) actor and slap them in Li's role, and the results would probably be much the same.
At any rate, the movie stars Li as Rogue, an assassin who is being pursued by a FBI agent Jack Crawford (Jason Statham) after Rogue Crawford's partner. Besides playing cat-and-mouse with Crawford, Rogue is also channeling the spirit of Yojimbo and playing the Triads and Yakuzas off of each other, which results in the "war" of the title.
Why is Rogue doing this, you might ask? Well, it's all revealed in a BIG PLOT TWIST (tm) near the end that is so ridiculous that it's almost laughable. I won't spoil it here, but let's just say one of the characters isn't who he appears to be.
The twist comes off as a cheap way to wrap up the movie, and the fact that it took two screenwriters to come up with this is a great example why Hollywood is facing dwindling audience figures. It's not because of piracy, it's not because of the internet, it's not because of video games, it's because of drivel like this that insults the audience's intelligence.
Philip Atwell's leaden direction doesn't help matters any. He's better known for making rap videos, and that short attention span is noticeable here. There's no sense of flow to the movie; everything just kind of sits there. The acting is also dead in the water. Jason Statham is one of my favorite actors and usually brings a lot of energy and personality to his work, but his performance here is almost embarassingly bad.
Of course, it probably doesn't help with you're trying to work off stiffs like Devon Aoki. If you're going to put in a "jade vase" role, you should at least cast someone that, you know, looks good. Can someone please tell me why this boring waif keeps getting work? My personal suspicion is that her dad (who owns the Benihana chain) keeps paying producers off with delicious cuts of meat to put her in movies.
Thankfully, there is some good action here, as could be expected from a Li/Corey Yuen team-up. Of particular note is a frenzied shootout in a tea house, which delivers some thrills along with panache, something which the movie is severly lacking. There isn't even much of a Li versus Statham face-off.
I realize Jet's getting up there in years, but the climatic fight in an action movie (especially one starring Jet Li) should be longer than two minutes. It's an apt metaphor for War as a whole. There are flashes of brilliance, but ultimately, this doesn't have much to offer the viewer, other than a decent way to kill ninety minutes.