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Overall Rating

Awesome: 1.52%
Worth A Look: 10.61%
Average: 9.09%
Pretty Bad: 27.27%
Total Crap51.52%

6 reviews, 30 user ratings

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Art of War, The
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by Erik Childress

"The Big Red DUH"
2 stars

Does Wesley Snipes actually read the scripts to these action thrillers that he does? I ask this not only because, other than Blade, every one he makes sucks, plus he’s taken full advantage of the press junkets for this film to comment, in detail, of why he turned down this summer’s remake of Shaft. To make a long story short, he said the script was “ridiculous” and it insulted him. This from the man who alongside legitimate acting roles (New Jack City, Jungle Fever, White Men Can’t Jump, The Waterdance and even To Wong Foo), has made Boiling Point, Drop Zone, Money Train, Murder at 1600 and now, The Art of War, an action/mystery that might as well have a white background with giant black letters on its poster because its that generic.

It starts off intriguingly enough with Snipes playing Neil Shaw, a James Bond/Saint-like agent working for the CIA, infiltrating a high ranking party. It seems like a covert CIA agent (that doesn’t officially exist) could find an easier way to get into a party than sneaking in through the roof but, hey, gadgets are fun. After creatively blackmailing a general into playing ball and then playing chop-socky with the baddies in that super secret covert way, he parachutes out and narrowly escapes with his van partners (played by Michael Biehn & Liliana Komorowska of Scanners 3). His boss, chief of security Eleanor Hooks (Anne Archer) is on the working end of a trade agreement with China, alongside UN Secretary General Douglas Thomas (Donald Sutherland). She assigns him for a straight eavesdrop job on a conference with the Chinese ambassador, but when a sniper takes him out and Shaw fails (during a long foot chase) to cross paths with either the killer or his dead partner, he becomes the target of the police and the Chinese, until he can discover why.

Sometimes new movies or sneak previews have people outside the theater doors handing out or collecting survey tablets in order to gage the audience’s psyche on what they thought about the film. Well, for The Art of War, they should have a couple people propped up with a giant red stamp. Not for your hands but for your forehead, imprinting a single word to brand you with like some modern day Hester Prynne. And that word is “DUH”, if you cannot figure out who the sniper is within 15 minutes. This is about the time frame I leaned over to my friend and pointed out the culprit (before the crime had even been committed). Figuring out such information so early is detrimental to a film like this, which depends on the audience not getting ahead of the plot and knowing only just as much as the main character. But The Art of War seems to be so in love with the “clever” way it tries to trick its audience, that it forgets that audiences are smarter than that (even if they couldn’t figure out the ending to The Sixth Sense). This is the kind of long-winded throwaway action script where the screenwriter (Wayne Beach)had a statement to make. One statement. A single statement that is a throwaway in a single patch of dialogue that is, of course, spoken by the bad guys as the motive. 117 minutes of celluloid wasted (not to mention the time of everyone who has to sit through this) to get out a single statement. Even after the reveal of all the villains involved, the film keeps going. And going. And going - explaining a non-existent plot and numbing us into submission with one boring scene after another.

In a Wesley Snipes action movie, it’s only a matter of time before Snipes turns into Jackie Chan to show off his martial arts skills. If he could ever find a director that can utilize those skills as effectively into the plot as Stephen Norrington did with Blade, than he might have something worth watching. But director Christian Duguay is not up to that task, trying to create seemingly complex and interesting action sequences at times and then mixing it up with a plot that is truly boring and too long. Consider the scene where Snipes realizes a bomb has been planted at a diner (after playing back the moment in his head numerous times). He crashes his car into the diner, snatches the backpack bomb, puts it into the car and then shifts it to drive outwards to about the distance of the other side of your average street. Couldn’t he have just run in, pick the bomb up (like he does) and then throw it the same distance? I believe he could, but I guess that wouldn’t be as cinematic. Or how about the laugh-a-second gun battle that takes place in the hallway of the United Nations building. Forget about the Matrix-like effects to show how close the bullets come to hitting their target, but I dare you not to laugh out loud when the two participants try to shoot one another by running right past each other, then sitting back-to-back to reload, and even then attempt to blast the other…WHILE STILL SITTING BACK-TO-BACK. It’s like an action scene choreographed by John Woo in spirit that makes anything in Mission Impossible 2 seem probable.

It’s no wonder Warner Bros. didn’t screen The Art of War in advance for critics because it has direct-to-video written all over it. Therefore, it’s appropriate that Snipes’ character keeps having these video flashback moments to rewind those in the audience what happened earlier in the film. It’s even used to ridiculous fashion to show how his (extraordinarily slow) Sherlock Holmes deduction skills work to solve how a fellow colleague was murdered. Ever since Rising Sun (the unfairly dismissed atmospheric thriller with Sean Connery), Snipes has been making movies that have played up the issues raised in that film. Murder at 1600 was about the murder where the cops were out of their league and now The Art of War is in reference to the ancient Chinese secrets which state that “all warfare is based on deception.” Sounds like the principle of marketing most of the films released these days to capture that number one spot at the box office. Even going with an open mind though, and ignoring the film’s press, won’t help this one. And to take a cue from Wesley’s recent interviews, The Art of War’s script was ridiculous and it insulted me.

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originally posted: 08/30/00 04:50:30
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User Comments

9/22/17 morris campbell not a bad flick 3 stars
2/05/12 Orson I enjoy ROOTING for the villains~they were obviously right!! 4 stars
1/26/10 art ONLY HIGHLIGHT is when MARIE MATIKO STRIP"S! 2 stars
8/28/08 Shaun Wallner The Action was Amazing! 4 stars
3/02/08 Pamela White uneven performance 2 stars
8/07/07 David Graham not bad but more like the art of crap. 2 stars
6/10/05 JD A decent enough movie, worth a look. 4 stars
2/21/05 Jeff Anderson The film looks great & Snipes is in good energized form. A PRETTY GOOD FILM OVERALL! 4 stars
2/17/04 Stefan Halka After a promising beginning, it's all downhill in plot and action. 3 stars
5/12/03 Jack Bourbon They may as well have shot the producers stroking Snipes' lubricated Alabama blacksnake for 2 stars
3/04/03 Jack Sommersby An unexpected delight. Kinetic action, good plotting, and a winning Snipes. 4 stars
4/01/01 fishie not bad, but i've seen better. 3 stars
1/08/01 The Democratic Darkness It wasn't good, nor was it bad, but the action scenes were either GREAT or EXTREMELY GOOFY. 3 stars
1/04/01 NoStringsAttached The Art of War MY ARSE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 1 stars
1/01/01 John Lyons Okay, but could have done without the racial slant. 3 stars
12/02/00 Phil Art of CRAP . . . Wanted action, got bore-fest. 1 stars
10/02/00 Image its not Wesleys greatest...but wuzn't that bad either!! 4 stars
9/18/00 Bueller A cliche. Whenever they 'aparently' kill a heroes' buddy, he always comes back as a villan. 2 stars
9/06/00 Boy In The Designer Bubble My prostitute cousin has a pimp who could have starred in this flick. And did a better job. 1 stars
9/03/00 Franklin Pure Ish 1 stars
9/02/00 KyLe*BrOfLoVsKi Stay home & water your Chia Pet... 1 stars
9/02/00 Merripen dear gawd, has it really come to this? Don't bother. 1 stars
9/01/00 paul C Typical summer fare: Great action. So-so plot and dialog. 4 stars
8/31/00 Stunned Moviegoer Oh my god this sucked, but I knew it would. Worse than Coyote Ugly, if you can believe it 1 stars
8/30/00 jon j boo 1 stars
8/29/00 Greyjack Astonishingly mediocre. The most derivative, unoriginal film I've seen in ages. 2 stars
8/29/00 Ken damn enjoyable 5 stars
8/29/00 Hollywood Hangover Forced, unapologitic references to Sun Tzu in order to pilfer cool title. 'Nuff said? 1 stars
8/28/00 Captain Highcrime Same old, same twists or surprises in this not-really-New York shootup. 3 stars
8/26/00 Clifton Hyre Total waste of an evening! 1 stars
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  25-Aug-2000 (R)


  19-Oct-2000 (MA)

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