Two Perspectives: War
It's the first time a film has received only one flame from two reviewers. War is just that bad.
The Only Plot Is in the Form of Twists: Chris Fletcher
Relevant flames: 1 out of 5
Does anyone else wonder if Jason Statham hit his stride a long time ago? With the days of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels far behind us, it is becoming increasingly difficult to take Statham seriously. Not that he has never inhabited a character deeper than the Transporter in the film of the same name, but the subsequent Crank (I like to pretend there was no Transporter 2) was a filthy piece of dreck about an unlikable jerk, and the new War isn’t much better.
The original idea (or inciting incident, for all you screenwriters) for War was The One, featuring Li and Statham, which was somewhat entertaining, so why not have the duo go toe-to-toe in another action flick?
I’ll tell you why not. Because there is no story, that’s why not. The only plot to be had is in the form of twists and the clichés are piled on so thick that it’s hard to tell that’s all there is. There’s even a scene where FBI agent Jack Crawford (Statham) is scolded by his ex-wife for not coming to their son’s baseball game (or whatever) that plays like an R-rated version of Hook. I’d give the filmmakers credit for introducing a twist that I didn’t expect, but I’m afraid that the only reason I didn’t know it was coming was because I thought it was too smart for the rest of the film.
For all of War’s badness, what really bothers me is that Hollywood types know that we’re all suckers enough to see a movie because we thought the trailer was cool.
Movie-goer before: “Hey, that trailer was mildly diverting and a heckuva lot better than the 23 minutes of commercials that came before it. Let’s go see War when it comes out.”
Movie-goer after: “Well, it wasn’t very good was it? At least it had swords in it … I guess.”
It has to be the trailer; we sure can’t be going to the movie for its title. War? Oh yeah, that narrows it down real well. When the human condition itself is a kind of war the only movie it can’t be describing is The Care Bears Meet the My Little Ponies II: Happytime Hugfest. It’s like they’re not even trying to get anyone to see it. I say if they don’t care, you shouldn’t either.
A New Meaning to Mediocrity: Michael Kneff
Relevant flames: 1 out of 5
War lacks any solid plot and comes across as a jumbled mess of an action film. There are a couple uninteresting side stories that were possibly meant to add depth, but only end up slowing down the plot. A large amount of screen time is devoted to establishing the motivation of the characters, but due to poor acting, nothing ever materializes. Even the usually creative fast paced fighting that accompanies so many of Jet Li and Jason Statham’s films is disappointingly absent.
War follows Jack Crawford (Jason Statham) as he tries to hunt down the legendary assassin Rogue (Jet Li). Crawford becomes obsessed with Rogue after a bloody encounter between Rogue and Crawford’s partner. The chase leads Crawford right into the middle of an all out war between the Chinese Triads and Japanese Yakuza.
This film is violent and contains many unnecessary scenes with sexual content and/or nudity. I say unnecessary because the scenes provide no aid to the story and appear to have been added to fill the nudity quota that accompanies most action films these days.
The main appeal of War was that two of this generation’s action heroes were on film together for the first time. By my definition, an action hero is an actor who is fairly one-dimensional, in peak physical condition, and can look really tough in just about any situation. In the ‘90s we had an entire line up of action heroes. These were men such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Wesley Snipes and (who could forget) Steven Seagal. All of these actors fit the “action hero” profile. Their films never received an Oscar nomination, but they delivered punch after punch of action entertainment. Now we have the duo of Jet Lee and Jason Statham. Both Li and Statham have had their share of action successes, but War fails to deliver anything that can be considered action entertainment.
The question I ask after sitting through a film like War is: What happened to the great action films of the ‘90s? Films like Universal Soldier, Demolition Man and Under Seige just aren’t being made anymore. The answer is they have been replaced. With a different superhero film coming out every six months and just as many epic period pieces like the 300, it seems that we have lost the need for plain action films. Also, we as an audience seem to be harder to please (me included). Some of the films that the older action heroes made were arguably just as bad as War, but they get a free pass where as films these days just seem pointless. Hollywood, in its attempt to find out exactly what we, the viewer, want, has given us too many choices. So now instead of just having an action film, we need an action film with a healthy dose of comedy and a love interest. Which brings us back to War, which is a classic case of trying to give the audience everything it wants and failing to accomplish anything. Statham and Li together on the screen should have been an atom bomb of awesomeness, but it just got bogged down in mediocrity.
Chris Fletcher is a writer who wishes he lived in a Jean-Pierre Melville film. Philosophy and firearms—so much more than the sum of their parts.
Michael Kneff works in Nashville as a project coordinator for Mission Discovery, a short-term mission organization. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.