Monday 2 August 2021

Movie Review: The Art Of War (2000)

A routine action thriller, The Art Of War is artlessly pretentious.

Agent Neil Shaw (Wesley Snipes) is a covert operative for the United Nations, using vaguely unethical tactics to push forward globalization and trade objectives. Along with fellow agents Bly (Michael Biehn) and Novak (Liliana Komorowska) he reports to Eleanor Hooks (Anne Archer), the chief aide to the UN's Secretary General Douglas Thomas (Donald Sutherland).

In New York City, China's ambassador Wu (James Hong) and business tycoon David Chan (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) are targeted by an assassin in a conspiracy to derail a major trade agreement. Shaw finds himself falsely implicated as the trigger man, with the FBI's Frank Capella (Maury Chaykin) hot on his trail. Shaw teams up with interpreter Julia Fang (Marie Matiko) to uncover the real conspirators and clear his name.

Despite ambitions to weave the philosophy of Sun Tzu's titular text into the narrative, The Art Of War is an unimaginative thriller crammed with numbingly repetitive stunts unimaginatively mounted by director Christian Duguay, and hobbled by an almost impossible-to-follow plot courtesy of co-writers Wayne Beach and Simon Barry. Characters are barely introduced before being summarily slayed by faceless villains, and the action gallops from one unexplained set piece to another without pause. And of course the conspirators reveal their plans at inopportune moments and are suddenly incompetent at killing just when it matters most. 

Wesley Snipes has enough charisma to cut through the action and almost saves a few moments, but he too is comprehensively defeated by the weak material. All of which is unfortunate, because notwithstanding the bewildering decision to fictitiously expand the UN's mandate to include trade negotiations, conflicts sparked by the power shifts of international commerce should contain the seeds of a worthwhile cerebral thriller. 

The Art Of War pretends to venture into new and profound terrain, but remains trapped in a tired and familiar patch.

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

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