In 1969 an R&B singer named Edwin Starr had a hit song that I thought it might be appropriate to quote here. “War! What is it good for?” he sang, “Absolutely nothin’! Say it again.” Starr may have had a loftier message in mind than a review for a Jet Li / Jason Statham movie, but if the shoe fits.
War, is the story of an FBI agent (Statham) determined to avenge the death of his partner by bringing down both the Yakuza and Triad crime organizations in San Francisco. The key to cracking the case is Rogue (Jet Li) a hit man for hire who appears to be playing both sides of the fence.
This should have been big dumb fun; the kind of movie that starts with a punch to the head and pummels away at you for ninety action-packed minutes, but instead War limps along for most of its running time. It doesn’t have half the manic energy of Statham’s last film Crank, or nearly enough of the acrobatic physicality that Li is famous for.
Then there is the story. Any movie about double crosses and Machiavellian dealings between crime groups has to be careful to be clear about who’s crossing who or the script can turn to mush. War, with its twists and double and triple crosses, is so confused you need a slide rule to keep up on what’s going on.
War is stylishly filmed by former video director Philip G. Atwell, and is filled with cool cars, beautiful women and just enough action to whet your appetite. It has all the trappings of a solid b action flick, but without the extra spark needed to push it over the top into Funland.
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