The Art of War

Bomb Rating: 

Finding out that Jet Li was supposed to star in this film is sort of like going on that business trip and reserving a Lexus only to show up at the Hertz counter and have some diminutive Ralph Macchio lookalike with the brain of a two-year-old explain that "we ran out of Lexi, sir. However, we have a nice Metro for you, and we're even throwing in a free pine tree air freshener!"

This bit of information seems to have had some negative effect on director Christian Duguay, as well, because every time Wesley Snipes engages in a fight scene, Duguay appears to suffer some sort of seizure. Suddenly, the camera goes spraying all over the place and the cutting becomes extraordinarily erratic. I mean, it must be a seizure, because every director on planet Earth must understand that when there's a big fight sequence, most people in the audience actually want to see the fight. Not the wall next to the fight, and not the stunt double's ass, but the actual fight.

Snipes plays Neil Shaw, an American agent so secretive he makes James Bond look like a tour guide. Naturally, he works amongst the Chinese, because the Chinese would never suspect a black guy who speaks several languages of being an American spy, and if they did suspect him, pinpointing his location amongst billions of shorter Asian people would just be too much trouble. Shaw works for an FBI agent (Anne Archer) who sort of works for the U.N. ambassador (Donald Sutherland). When a boatload of dead refugees shows up in New York, Shaw thinks a Chinese buinessman (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) might be trying to sabotage a trade agreement. Wow, an evil businessman? There's a new one.

This film clocks in at 117 minutes, which is easily 30 minutes too long -- an eternity in a movie. It's like filling the intermission for a Jackie Chan film with "Shoah." So "The Art of War" has a star in a martial arts role who's not a martial artists, which necessitates a cutting style that involves obscuring the fights, which produces an inordinate amount of exposition. Root canal, anyone?

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