Despite the original being a commercial failure, somewhere along the line Sony Pictures decided it would be wise to green light a sequel to the Wesley Snipes 2000 action spectacle Art of War. Although a sequel to the first film, this one arrives straight to DVD and curiously was able to retain its leading man from the first—although with the headlines Snipes has made in the news, it’s possible this wasn’t something that he truly wanted to do…but, rather, had to.
After his former mentor is murdered, Agent Neil Shaw (snipes) comes out of hiding to take on those that were responsible for the murder. What Shaw doesn’t realize, however, is that he’s on a trail of betrayal and lethal corruption that ultimately ends up with the roles being reversed and Shaw becomes the one framed. With plenty of action and fury, Snipes returns Shaw to the roots of the original film and lets his vengeance fly as he attempts to get to the bottom of the conspiracy that is surrounding him and his friend, a Senatorial candidate.
I haven’t seen the original Art of War and nor do I ever intend to. Snipes has never been a favorite of mine, but I have no opinion either way of his recent headline making court cases. I don’t honestly care and that doesn’t affect my opinion of his movies for me—I honestly just never liked the way he acted on screen, even in the Blade films (admittedly the second Blade wasn’t bad, but that may just be my affinity for Ron Perlman and del Toro popping through again). So while I don’t necessarily see why people enjoyed his films, after watching something like Art of War II, it becomes even more difficult to take anything he does seriously.
Granted, Snipes wasn’t the weak link in the film—without him, the entirety of the film would mean absolutely jack. The story is contrived, annoying and stretches on for far too long and gets to the point where I just didn’t care what happened—I just wanted it to be over. Maybe I had to see the first one in the series to really understand the character, but he’s just a one dimensional typical agent who knows martial arts and how to fire a gun—nothing you haven’t seen before. Truth be told, as much as I never liked Snipes acting, that was really the one thing about the film that was remotely appealing to me. The rest was just garbage.
I’m incredibly confused as to why this film was even made in the first place. I don’t know where Sony thought it’d be a good idea to make this after the horrible numbers the first one did, but here it is anyway. Not only is it clear that the budget is small, when they attempted to work in some kind of super fancy rocket bullet gun in the final act, the CGI looked so horrendous it appeared to be something out of CGI bonus feature on a The Matrix DVD where they show you the many steps it takes to create a realistic CGI projectile and the one in Art of War II looks to be about five or six stages from completion.
So the film has a low budget and a shoddy plot, but what about the characters? Well aside from Shaw and some Reverend named Tim (played by Winston Rekert) who he apparently knew but was nowhere to be seen in the first film (at least he wasn’t credited as being in it—as I said before, I haven’t seen the first film and merely going off of cross reference research on who appeared in which film), the characters here represent nothing of real interest. They’re all one-off, stereotypical characters cast to fill their roles and nothing more. I could say that the character of Heather (Athena Karkanis), who ultimately betrayed Neil in the end (spoiler? I don’t think it matters.) came as a surprise, but by that point in the film I don’t know if it as a surprise simply because I stopped caring long before we reached that point or because it genuinely was. I’m going with the former.
In the end I doubt anyone expected anything of quality here, but there really has to be better ways to spend and make money for Sony than to draft sequels to films in their library that were such a box office failure. Maybe it’ll make back its budget in DVD sales, who knows—all I know is it really just is a stinker of a film. Skip It.
Art of War II: Betrayal arrives on DVD in a standard DVD amaray case with a slipcover that mimics the art beneath it. Inside is the disc itself as well as an insert with the key code for the bonus digital copy (oh good, two copies of this film, whatever will I do!?). Menus are static and the accompanying video transfer for the film is what you’d expect from a modern film. Solid color levels, deep blacks and a crystal clear picture that really shows off just how horrible the CGI is in the film. The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer comes packed with an English 5.1 track that is focused towards the front for the most part, with some surrounds and subwoofer kicking in for the action sequences. Also available in 5.1 are Spanish and Portuguese tracks as well as French and Thai in Dolby Surround. Subtitles come in the English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean and Thai varieties.
Extras consist of…alternate fight scenes. Yes, what is essentially probably multiple takes of the same fight scenes in the film, we get them here as the only extra on the set. No commentary, no behind-the-scenes feature, no discussion with Snipes about why the hell he would toss this crap onto his resume…nada. There are four alternate scenes total that run an exact eight minutes, so if you absolutely need more from this film, then you have a bonus eight minutes to check out.
Like the film, Skip this DVD. Nothing about this is worth anyone’s time or money.
Art of War II: Revenge is now available on DVD.