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|Anthony "Treach" Criss||Agent Neil Shaw|
|Janet Carroll||UN Secretary General,|
|Sung Hi Lee||Sun Yi,|
|James Bairian||Score Composer|
|Louis Castle||Score Composer|
|Phillip B. Goldfine||Producer|
|Billy Jett||Production Designer|
|Alison Semenza||Executive Producer|
Posted October 1, 2010
The "Art of War" franchise has produced 2 good, fun films. Wesley Snipes has been largely responsible for how good they are, but there are also smart script-writers and effective directors involved.
Somehow, the 3rd film has run badly off-track. Since Mr. Snipes isn't in it, my guess is he saw the script in advance (they'd have been fools not to ask him), and gave it a big, big pass. Judging from what we now see on the screen, he was wise to do so.
The subject of the film is, generally, illegal arms trading. Namely, selling a nuke to North Korea. The primary focus is a UN-sponsored meeting on the issue in South Korea. The Secretary-General (a woman, which has not yet happened and may not since none of the Islamic nations, which have a vast, unreasoning fear of women, would vote for her) underplays a pivotal role here, and needed to have appeared a lot more.
Unfortunately, the film treats this subject in a somewhat fuzzy manner that obfuscates the seriousness of the issue. We know that the tyrant of North Korea wants a nuke so badly he can taste it. But my guess is that having it would be a prestige item much more than a threat - the Nuclear Club is a very exclusive one. Using a nuke invites retaliation - and North Korea's infrastructure is so fragile that a single hit - certainly more than 2 - would leave the state unable to manage itself. It can barely manage now. (By contrast, even if Seoul is completely flattened, South Korea would still be viable.)
We should mention that the major characters are: Neil Shaw (or Agent #1), played by Anthony Criss (billed as "Treach"); Jason (or Agent #2), played by Warren Derosa; Sung Hi Lee, played by Sung Yi; and the aforementioned Secretary-General, played by Janet Carroll. Criss, who is pushing 49 and doesn't really look it, has had a robust film/TV career and manages to play his role as if he half-way believes it. The dynamic between Criss and Derosa is exactly the same as that between Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith in "Men in Black" - who gets to drive, who gets the big gun, and so on. It would have helped to play this bit for comic relief, but you're not working with first-rate movie-makers here. Sung Hi Lee is an anomalous character who's found with the bad guys early in the film, but then plunges in to cooperate whole-heartedly to help the good guys.
The story is developed through a lot of shooting and fisticuffs and implausible misses by the bad guys, who can't seem to hit the good guys with a hail of bullets. The fights are too obviously staged. The ultimate mystery here is the identity is the main bad guy. Some red herrings are dangled, but on the precedent of previous films it has to be somebody under our noses. Main candidates: Derosa's and Lee's characters. He is always seem to be a squeaky wheel and she, the sweet innocent, turns out to know her way pretty well about kung fu. Of course, since they're so obvious, the bad guy may be someone else entirely. The Secretary General? Kim Jong-il? Wesley Snipes? I'd tell you, in order to spare you having to go through this thing in order to find out, but there would be the usual bad-movie-masochists who will complain I committed the "spoiler" heresy. Hell, this film was spoiled the moment it went onto celluloid.
Some of y'all will just love the senseless violence. For the rest, avoid this turkey. Sayonara, "Art of War" franchise.