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Jet Li and Jason Statham are pals in War.
AKA: Rogue Assassin (Hong Kong title)
AKA: Rogue (working title)
Year: 2007
Director: Philip G. Atwell  
Writer: Lee Anthony Smith, Gregory J. Bradley
Cast: Jet Li, Jason Statham, John Lone, Devon Aoki, Luis Guzmán, Saul Rubinek, Ryo Ishibashi, Sung Kang, Mathew St. Patrick, Nadine Velazquez, Andrea Roth, Kenneth Choi, Mark Cheng Ho-Nam, Kane Kosugi, Kennedy Montano, Terry Chen
The Skinny: Jet Li gets paid. The audience gets taken. Some people may still go home happy. Chances are you may not be one of them.
by Kozo:

     They were in The One together, but if you don't remember nobody will blame you for it. Jet Li and Jason Statham re-team for War, titled Rogue Assassin in Hong Kong, Singapore, and a few other territories where Jet Li is a much bigger draw than Jason Statham. The tough Transporter actor plays Jack Crawford, an FBI agent on the trail of vicious assassin Rogue (Jet Li), the man responsible for killing his partner Tom Lone (Terry Lee), as well as Tom's wife and child, three years ago. Obviously, Rogue is not Jack's favorite person.
     Rogue resurfaces when he starts working for San Francisco's resident Triads, run by Chang (John Lone). Previously he was working for the Yakuza, led by Shiro (Ryo Ishibashi), but for some reason he's switched sides and is helping the Triads recover a pair of priceless horse statues that once belonged to Chang's family. Jack's job is preventing a bloody gang war, but he's more fixated on nabbing Rogue, whose presence in the mob melee gets Jack all frothed up with anger. However, Rogue regards Jack's presence with strange amusement, and seems to have his own agenda regarding the brewing gang war. Just what is Rogue up to?
     Not surprisingly, he's up to the Yojimbo-like tricks of playing each side against the other - a factoid which is not given to the audience right away, but is easy to figure out anyway. After all, this is Jet Li in the starring role, and Jet Li hasn't played a real villain since his US debut, Lethal Weapon 4. Ergo, righteousness is somehow a given. As Rogue, Li oozes much more screen charisma than Jason Statham, though that achievement is not a difficult one. Statham is angry and intense as Jack Crawford, but he comes off as a bit of a clichéd, cartoonish figure. He's not helped much by the script and direction, which are blazingly mediocre.
     Director Philip G. Atwell, who's handled many a music video before, delivers everything in unspectacular fashion. The film is routine for its genre, resembling much of Steven Seagal's nineties output in production design and overall style. The Asian gang fetish is fun, but also a bit backwards, harking back to the many cloying Asian-gangs-in-America cop thrillers from the nineties. People talk about face, visit sushi bars, and travel by motorcycle from the Yakuza district to the Triad district (which appear to be within two blocks of each other) whenever they want to cause trouble. The film even has ninjas, as well as an appearance by Asian screen babe du jour Devon Aoki, though honestly, that's a mark in the minus column. Setting and story-wise, there's not a whole lot new here.
     The film does possess some minor inspiration. There's a mega-melting pot of stolen plot devices and ideas in War, but the filmmakers manage to deliver a couple of intriguing twists that seemingly turn the film on its ear. However, the twists aren't convincing. The first twist sure seems cool, but it's actually quite predictable and totally lacking in credibility. The second twist is even worse; the twist is an unpredictable surprise, but it causes the film to end in a bewildering and unsatisfying manner. Given everything that came before, it's hard to imagine that the film's resolution is one that would satisfy most audiences. War possesses plot twists that would work better in a hard boiled cop morality play, and not your standard Hollywood action film; the film simply doesn't set up enough complexity or convincing interest to warrant multiple twists. If you're going to screw with the audience's expectations then you have to make them care first.
     On the plus side, War is solid, made-to-order commercial cinema for its undemanding target audience, meaning it has blood, breasts, cardboard characters, routine conflicts, and few effective surprises. Action fans who expect very little may be entertained by War's more elaborate plot points, and those who still make time for the direct-to-video exploits of Wesley Snipes or Jean-Claude Van Damme should totally see this picture first. Hong Kong Cinema fans get Jet Li, plus a supporting role for Mark Cheng Ho-Nam, who plays John Lone's right-hand guy. The above positives are just marketing ones, however, and the actual quality of the product lacks. The filmmakers never find a way to make the material rise above the obvious, and any drama or emotion is simply indicated and never truly felt. War has the tools to be an effective action thriller, but it blows everything on standard conflicts and generally unimpressive action sequences. Action director Corey Yuen has certainly done better work before. So has Jet Li. So has Jason Statham. So has Mark Cheng. I could go on and on. (Kozo 2007)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Panorama Entertainment
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
English Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS ES
Removable Chinese Subtitles

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