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The Art Of War  

Neil Shaw (Wesley Snipes)
Frank Cappella (Maury Chaykin)
Eleanor Hooks (Anne Archer)
Bly (Michael Biehn) Julia (Marie Matiko)
Douglas Thomas (Donald Sutherland)

Directed by Christian Duguay Written by Kevin Bernhardt, Wayne Breach and Simon Davis Barry

Rated R for strong violence, mild language, some nudity and brief drug content
Running Time: 120 minutes Distributed by Warner Bros.
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The Art of War is a dreary and tolerant action thriller. The film is centered on the character of Neil Shaw (Snipes), who is an international security expert. Shaw's job is to uncover and blackmail powerful international leaders into stopping their dirty deeds. After taking six months off to recover from the injuries of his last mission, Shaw is given a new task, which is to oversee a conference, which proposes a peace treaty between China and the United Nations. However, ruthless terrorists assassinate the key ambassador in the treaty negotiations. Unmistakably, Shaw is framed and appended by the FBI. After a daring escape, Shaw takes on his own mission, which is to be come a solitary force for the good, as he tries to prove his innocence and stop what could become a huge international war between China and the United Nations.

The Art of War is a lame thriller that has only a couple of good scenes in it. It is a film that wanted to capture the martial art essence of the The Matrix and the over all style of Rising Sun.

Christian Duguay very poorly directed The Art of War. The sequencing and transitions of the film are very flat, which leaves the movie confusing and sometimes boring. The fight and martial art scenes are somewhat admirable, but the director tries to make most of the scenes a reflection of the famous shots in The Matrix. An example is the film's final fight scene, in which many bullets fly around in slow motion 3-D. Hollywood filmmakers seem to be in a trend of wanting action films to give the feel of The Matrix. In my opinion, the trend will hopefully die off because The Matrix is an original, a film of its own. I also find it copycat, unoriginal and uncreative for directors to try and reflect the same aspects of a classic film. The final piece of Duguay's direction that I want to touch on is his absurd decision of making Shaw seem invincible. One example is in the opening scene, in which Shaw jumps down four or five stories on a building. He lands straight up on his feet, no roll or fall, as if his legs are made out of titanium. Scenes like this one looked really cheesy to me, and it gives an immediate loss of realism to the supposedly smart film.

The script for The Art of War isn't much better. Kevin Barnhardt, Wayne Beach and Simon Davie Barry all take credit for inking the script. The storyline isn't bad, even though everyone has seen and heard it before. The plot just gets too complicated, the script really needed to be polished and tighten. There is also a lot of unevenness in the film, such as Shaw's sense of being psychic. The example of this is when Shaw finds one of his ex-partners is murdered. He then calmly flashback to what happened to her, even though he wasn't present when she was murdered. It is as if the writers made Shaw psychic like Professor X in X-Men. The dialogue is mostly poor and the characters are really flaky. The script could have been something, but the result is a dull screenplay.

Wesley Snipes does an okay acting job as the film's hero, Shaw. I have found Snipes to sometimes being a good actor (like in Sugar Hill and Murder at 1600) and sometimes being a bad actor (like in Blade). But, his performance in The Art of War is a typical Wesley Snipes role. Two actors that I really like, Donald Sutherland and Anne Archer, both do what they can with their roles as members of the United Nations. However, I have no clue of why either one of them are in a film like The Art of War. Finally, Maury Chaykin turns in a simple and humorous performance as FBI agent Frank Cappella.

The Art of War is a movie that I believe could have been good, but it's not. There are too many problems with the script and direction.

Report Card Grade: C-

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