With exception to Mission: Impossible II, the 2000 summer was pretty bare in terms of mindless action movies. Sure, there was Shaft, but it wasn't exactly mindless and wasn't exactly the onslaught of shooting that I wanted. There was Gone in 60 Seconds... but that was... Gone in 60 Seconds. So, just before the summer season ends, Wesley Snipes is looking to do what he does best in The Art of War.
The results aren't completely what I wanted, but they are as close as I expected... actually, much better than what I expected. The Art of War didn't get the biggest ad campaign and it has been receiving pretty tepid reviews, so I went into the theater thinking, "Just sit back and try to enjoy this movie."
And I did. I don't get what the bad word-of-mouth is about. The action isn't as intense as the really great action films (Face/Off being my all time favorite), nor as some of Snipes' others (Passenger 57) and the story is pretty predictable (with one good twist), but The Art of War is a lot better than the movie I have heard about in reviews.
Wesley Snipes, back for the first time since 1998's so-so Blade, seems just like his usual self. He uses a lot of martial arts stuff, guns, and some explosives, and his character is pretty similar to those in his other movies, but I really don't have a problem with that. Snipes is good at action movies so when he finds a groove he should stay there. Unfortunately, his female costar Marie Matiko, fluctuates. It's not like this is too big of a deal but at some times the things she says seems so awkward. Of course, the script isn't exactly a winner. There's a lot of lines that try to be too serious and just suck, and one thing that I did notice was the lack of clever comedic remarks. Even the most serious of action movies nowadays have a good blend of comedy to keep the audience entertained during the "slow parts," and The Art of War doesn't have much.
As mentioned earlier, the story is pretty predictable. There are actually several bad guys and it is up to the audience to figure out who they are. Two of them are obvious right from the start (but, unfortunately for the person who wrote this movie, only one was supposed to be obvious), but the third caught me by surprise. However, looking back, I'm surprised that it caught me by surprise. Yeah. Anyway, the script for The Art of War needed some work, but it's the action that counts.
And the action is decent, and that's about as much as I can say. I wouldn't praise the action in any form, but it was enough to keep me entertained. Like I said earlier, I wasn't expecting much, but I got more than I wished for.
My one major complaint about The Art of War is the director. He seems to have blended action and art into one as there are several moments where he uses slow motion shots to catch some interesting but fairly unnecessary thing falling through the air or something (yes, John Woo has blended art and action, but he is better at it). Most of the time, this works, but there are times, especially towards the end, when his use of flashbacks gets incredibly annoying. There is one scene where Snipes is looking for the assassin and he recounts everything about the day of the assassination... First off, I can remember an hour and a half back, and second, these flashbacks just sucked. The movie could have been ten minutes shorter and nothing would have been lost.
The Art of War is a mild action film to say the least, but it satisfied my craving for a fun, mindless thriller. Go into the movie with that mindset and you should like it as well.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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