Jason Statham seems to be everywhere after his roles in the Transporter movies. He even had a solo starring role in Crank which was, without a doubt, one of the strangest films I’ve ever witnessed (still fun to watch at least once though). So it’s no surprise that he’s starring side by side with Chinese/Hong Kong action star Jet Li, making Jason Statham the next Stallone or possibly Schwarzenegger. Ok, maybe not that far, but Statham is definitely your go-to guy for mindless action movies now, it seems.
In War, Statham plays Jack Crawford, an FBI agent who loses his friend to the deadly Yakuza assassin Rogue (Jet Li). After the loss of his partner, Crawford’s life begins spiraling down the tubes, with an end to his marriage and an obsession with finding Rogue, Crawford can’t seem to pull it together until Rogue reappears and starts taking down both the Yakuza and the Triad gangs by pitting them against one another. Once Rogue sparks the rivals already tense relationships, a war is started and Crawford, Rogue and the Yakuza and Triad heads are smack dead in the center.
At its core, War is a good old fashioned action film. It’s got a bit of Face/Off buried into it and a healthy dose of martial arts thanks to Jet-Li. While there’s nothing in this film that will have anyone too enthralled by it, it is just what one would expect—a fun ride with explosions and plenty of guns and sword play. The story, what there is of it, is a bit contrived, but this isn’t an Oscar winner by any means—the film had a small budget and what the actors and director were able to do with it is quite remarkable. I will preface this part of the review by stating that there are SPOILERS in the paragraph below.
While the film has a surprise “twist” ending, one has to wonder how it exactly came about. Without spoiling it, one of our characters goes through a bit of a “change” that radically transforms him (hence my comparison to Face/Off). One assumes that the absence is the reason why he has new martial art skills (ok that clue was a bit obvious, but I can only be so vague), but it really seems to come from nowhere. In reality the big “reveal” makes no sense because Crawford remarks early in the movie on about an aspect of facial reconstruction that ends up being still true in the end—only why Crawford didn’t realize the truth the first time…it makes for an awkward ending that really didn’t need to be.
Now that I’ve probably ruined the film for you all with the above, keep in mind there’s still plenty to enjoy. Whether it’s the frequent gun/sword battles with Jet-Li or Statham or the kind-of-exciting car chases (after Tarantino’s twenty-minute epic in Death Proof, it’s kind of hard to be impressed by a car chase ever again), War is a satisfying action movie that will no doubt please with its myriad of explosions.
Overall your enjoyment of the film will depend on your willingness to submit to an admittedly hokey plot about two friends that’s interspersed with a healthy dose of foul language and violence. Oh and there’s topless women too, of course. Can’t have an R-rated action movie without those. Rent It.
Arriving in a standard DVD amaray case with a reflective foil slipcover, the black and reds used throughout the packaging is definitely eye catching. With such taglines as “One wants justice. The other wants revenge.” and “The ultimate action face-off” (which I honestly didn’t see prior to my Face/Off references above), the film is set up to be rather hokey from the packaging alone. You can’t really take a tagline like “One wants justice. The other wants revenge.” too seriously. Disc art mirrors the cover and menus are animated with music over the main menu only.
Video and audio for this title are what you’d expect—clean, clear and plenty of bass for the explosions in the film. The accompanying Dolby Digital Surround EX track is chest thumping good and surrounds you with plenty of gunfire and subwoofer usage. While it won’t annoy your neighbors as frequently as something like Transformers, there is still plenty of thrust in the audio transfer.
Moving onto the extras we get two commentaries this time around. First is a commentary with director Philip G. Atwell and a second with writers Lee Anthony Smith and Gregory J. Bradley. As generic as this film ended up being, these two tracks show that there was quite a bit of passion behind the camera and script, so it’s a shame that the end result wasn’t exactly spectacular. After the commentaries we have a nine part documentary for the film, entitled “The Action of War.” The nine parts are as follows:
Opening Shootout – 7:45
Rogue Reappears / Club Carnage – 8:54
Crawford / Rogue Foot Chase – 6:01
Yakuza / Triad Motorcycle Brawl – 8:37
Teahouse Massacre – 8:18
Crawford / Rogue Car Chase – 9:38
Rogue / Triad Final Showdown – 9:13
Rogue / Yakuza Final Showdown – 7:48
Crawford vs. Rogue – 10:49
Each of the “vignettes” (as the rear cover art calls them) is divided into four parts, “The Story”, “The Style”, “The Stunts” and “The Sound.” There are plenty of director, writer, actor and crew interviews throughout these behind the scenes extras, as well as a healthy amount of footage. While two commentaries and nine individual making-of’s of all the big action sequences in the film may seem like a bit much, again, it shows there was enough love behind the film by the cast and crew to warrant these extras.
Next is a short gag reel (2:03) which his easily 95% Jet-Li either missing beats or malfunctioning props that he handles. It’s fun to watch, if only to see him smile so much, considering his character in the film is such a hard ass. After the gag reel is a collection of extended/deleted scenes (Shadow of a Doubt (Extended) [0:45], Candle for Mr. Shaw (Deleted) [0:49], Think He’s Done? (Deleted) [0:36]) which are either pointless (“Think he’s done?”) or horribly acted (“Candle for Mr. Shaw”). It’s a shame the “Candle for Mr. Shaw” didn’t make it into the film, but actress Nadine Velazquez had some really horrible delivery in that scene. She’s great on My Name is Earl, but her role in this film was really a letdown.
The final extra here is “Scoring War” (8:56), a short featurette with composer Brian Tyler which goes on to talk about his work in the film. While we heard from him throughout the nine-part “The Action of War”, this extra focuses on his work on the film as a whole, rather in the short action sequences.
Overall War is a decent film that remains entertaining throughout. The DVD is quite interesting as well (even moreso if you really enjoyed the film), so be sure to check it out. Rent the film first to see if you enjoy it enough—if you do, this disc easily comes Recommended.
War is now available on DVD and Blu Ray.