War Gets Confusing
The potential for a decent movie when you put 2 modern action stars together should be endless; there should be clever dialogue, plenty of fast paced action and a storyline which provides just enough reasoning for all the expected fight scenes. Sadly "War" never gets close to achieving its potential or that of its stars Jet Li and Jason Statham for one simple reason, it's a confusing mess of storyline which ends up distracting you as you try to piece it all together and at the same time ignore some major contrivances.
When his partner Tom and his family are murdered by infamous assassin Rogue (Jet Li - Unleashed), FBI agent Jack Crawford (Jason Statham - Crank) becomes racked with guilt over the death of his partner and at the same time becomes obsessed with getting to Rogue, too the detriment of everything else including his own family. A few years after the murder Rogue returns as he sets in motion a bloody war between rival Chinese gangs the Triads and Yakuza's. With Crawford aware that Rogue has returned he becomes even more determined to get him, but will what he discovers be what he wants to know.
So first things first, the idea for "War" is actually a good one with this mysterious deadly Rogue character who plays one gang of Chinese gangsters against another. Except what comes across on screen feels like it's been hacked to death with one of the impressive Samurai swords. It's just messy and disjointed and whilst you sort of know what is going on trying to make sense of it all ends up being distracting. And to make things even worse are some major contrivances which end up being laughable rather than delivering the cleverness that I am sure was intended.
It also doesn't help that director Philip G. Atwell has dug into his box of tricks and tried to use every single one in "War". So we get slow motion, quick judder edits, impressive bullet shots, quick fights, shaky camera chases and the list goes on and on. What all this trickery achieves is to help distract from the troubled storyline but at the same time it distracts from really enjoying those explosive moments of action. It's as if, and I don't mean to sound cruel, that Atwell looked at Jet Li and Jason Statham's last few movies and tried to imitate certain styles but then the blend of them never comes off.
What this means is that for what is an action movie, with two big modern action stars, the action in "War" is in fact rather boring. Between trying to make them look snappy but over stylizing them and a storyline which keeps Li and Stratham apart for much of the movie the action never really has that wow factor. Yes there are all the expected elements, fight scenes, gun fire, car chases, roof top chases and of course a big and contrived climax but not once did it get to the point of making you sit on the edge of your seat in anticipation or excitement.
As for the stars well both Jet Li and Jason Statham look confused as to what is going on, as if they have no idea what "War" is actually about. So what we get is Jet Li trying to act mysterious and smooth as the manipulative and lethal Rogue, whilst Jason Stratham tries to give us gruff and mean as Crawford. They do their best but with all the other flaws their performances never really come off and as already mentioned the excitement of having these two action heroes in the same movie is mostly neutered by them rarely being in the same scene.
What this all boils down to is that "War" is quite annoying both from an entertainment point of view and the fact that it had potential. Between the hacking about of the story and the over stylizing of the action it all becomes a bit of a confused mess. And although individually Jet Li and Jason Statham give us some entertaining action scenes, what you want, them in the same scene, hardly ever happens.