The Art of War
dir Christian Duguay scr Wayne Beach, Simon Davis Barry
with Wesley Snipes, Marie Matiko, Anne Archer, Donald Sutherland, Michael Biehn, Maury Chaykin, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Liliana Komorowska, James Hong, Tony Calabretta
release US 25.Aug.00; UK 8.Dec.00
Warners 00/US 1h27 2 out of 5 stars
Review by Rich Cline
Ho hum. Yet another slickly made, entertainingly daft conspiracy thriller. This time round it's Wesley Snipes in the lead role as Neil Shaw, a hugely talented secret agent working with a powerful UN official (Archer) to protect an immensely important agreement of some sort between the US and China. Of course, there's a beautiful woman (Matiko) in danger--and she's also, handily, a translator. And we also have lots of people to mistrust, including Shaw's partners (Biehn and Komorowska), the UN Secretary General (Sutherland), a ruthless Chinese businessman (Tagawa) and the Chinese ambassador (Wu). Hint: It's not who we think it is. Oooh.

There's virtually nothing original about his film, from the high-tech gadgetry to the over-blown set pieces. It's all filmed and acted with a certain level of skill-- never dull, frequently quite exciting. But each increasingly improbable action sequence is so obviously staged just for a movie that you're surprised the characters don't start looking around for the cameras. The plot features every action formula imaginable, from the requisite male-bonding-by-basketball scene to handcuffing the gorgeous girl to the car steering wheel to protect her from herself! And as the conspiracy grows to epic proportions (with a whopping body count), major plot holes tip us off to the story's Big Twist. All that aside, Snipes is extremely watchable as the guy left out on a limb who survives by his wits (with help from electronic gizmos galore). And this is Archer's most interesting role in years--she obviously loved every minute of it.

[18--violence, themes, language] 27.Nov.00

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2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall