August 30, 2007

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War (R)
Not even explosions and violence could save War, a tale of battling crime families and the freelance assassin working both sides.

And I thought violence fixed everything.

Jack Crawford (Jason Statham) and his partner Tom (Terry Chen) are working to bring down a Japanese crime family that, uhm, commits crime. I forget what the initial explanation of their work was — it went by quickly and was followed by a fight scene shot in semi-darkness where it was incredibly hard to figure out who was fighting whom and who was winning, so I didn’t waste a lot of time on remembering details. Post-fight, the tally is Jack and Tom: dozens; bad guys: one minor arm injury for Jack. Despite being only two guys against oodles of armed goons, Jack and Tom not only defeated the bad guys but they also managed to shoot Rogue, an elusive assassin, in the face.

A few days later, Jack and his family (including horrible Tommy Gavin ex-wife from Rescue Me Andrea Roth) are heading over to hang with Tom and fam for a sporting event of some kind. All the ominous “I’ll be right there” talk is enough to warn eventhe most obtuse movie-goer that something’s amiss. Sure enough, when we cut back to Tom’s family, we get an eyeful of a hitman shooting his wife and child — cut to exterior of the formerly happy home to watch the building ignite.

Jack arrives and finds his friend and his friend’s family dead, their home burned and the casing of a bullet Rogue has specially made just for him. “Khaaaaaaaaaaan,” Jack screams. Or maybe he just grinds his teeth and swears revenge.

Flash forward three years and Rogue (Jet Li) is back in town and Jack’s determined to get him. But while Jack hunts Rogue down, Rogue is working a few angles of his own. He’s trying to stir up trouble between the Japanese clan he’s always worked for and the Chinese crime family he’s appeared to have defected to. War’s a’comin’, but will it be between the families or between Jack and Rogue?

Don’t worry, there are enough bullets for everybody to fight. Also, both families have an endless supply of flunkies to be killed or tortured, ensuring that the violence can go on for a good long time.

Sadly, all the violence — even the brute force of Statham versus the killer martial arts of Jet Li — can’t make up for the obvious yet glacially paced story, the achingly bad acting and the painful dialogue. (I can’t think of a single TV cop show with dialogue this bad. Not even on Fox.) War is nasty and brutish but, woe unto us, it does not feel short. D

Rated R for sequences of strong bloody violence, sexuality/nudity and language. Directed by Philip G. Atwell and written by Lee Anthony Smith and Gregory J. Bradley, War is an hour and 31 minutes long and is distributed in wide release.