War (US - DVD R1)
Troy wants to see who America will ignore first: Jet Li or Jason Statham?
Jack Crawford (Jason Statham) has just had to deal with the murder of his partner. If that wasn’t enough, someone took it to the next level by whacking the partner's family. During all of this, Rogue (Jet Li) works as a sidewinder within the Triads, as he attempts to start a mob war between the Yakuza and the Triads. But, he can't seem to get anything done due to the fact that Agent Crawford is riding his ass the entire time. If you think that you've seen it before, you're probably right.
War falls apart due to its desire to stay generic enough for the mouth breathers and fast-paced enough for the action junkies. What I can't understand is why a project that was created for Jet Li to star alongside anyone of his choosing turned out to be so mediocre. Maybe you can blame it on this decade long funk that Jet Li has found himself since going Hollywood, but there's got to be something more to it than just making shitty movies with Joel Silver.
Does anyone really care about a gang war over control for a mysterious object? Then, there's the revenge story which was clichéd back in the days of Cagney and Bogart. It's not fair to put the blame for War on the backs of the stars. All they did was cash a check and do what the script asked them to do. No amount of kicking or hitting can make anyone sound smart.
Lionsgate has delivered a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that shows off every inch of the frame in pristine detail. I did notice that evening exteriors showed a lot of shimmer off automobile lights and bright objects. Also, the scenes with the Triad at first showed a great deal of sheen on flesh. This allowed for several instances of visible digital noise that left me wondering why I wasn't watching the film's Blu-ray version.
War contains the first truly exceptionable Dolby 5.1 EX surround track of the new year. The soundstage was set within the first five minutes, as the opening credits took us through the front channel salvo. Then, the first attack with the Rogue opened up the back channels without dropping one piece of dialogue. When uncompressed audio is dominating the next-generation field, it's nice to see that a Dolby Digital 5.1 EX track can still be mixed to impress even the hardened home theatre enthusiast.
Most of the special features on this disc seem to be typical of major action releases. ‘The Action of War’ is a nine-part behind-the-scenes look at the production, where many of my questions about where the film went wrong were answered. Sure, they were never spoken by the creative crew, but the answers are there. Hell, you can hear it in the audio commentary by Director Philip G. Atwell. Atwell never tried to take control of the shoot and make all of the personalities blend together to produce a solid film.
There's no cohesive vision and the end result looks like a couple of nerds cribbing notes from their favourite Eastern films. That brings us to the commentary by the screenwriters which is nothing more than what I just said. Where Atwell wouldn't talk about his direction, you had Writers Lee Anthony Smith and Gregory J. Bradley gabbing on and on about what they thought the film should've been. I had to turn off around the hour marker, as I've had to listen to another writing team spend some time telling me how and why they were going to save the film industry. The rest of the features include a gag reel, a featurette about the original score and some deleted/extended scenes.
The only feature that stood out to me as being odd was the inclusion of the Audio Trivia Track. I guess they had to come up with the dumbed down version of the audio commentary for people that couldn't be bothered to watch a movie and keep up with a conversation. I'm not sure whether to be pissed by the inclusion of such a thing or to warmly embrace it. It's as though Lionsgate said that they don't expect much of the people trying to watch this film, so they probably won't be able to understand what the director and writers are trying to say. So, here's a track that screams at you what is going on and what everything meant. If you pick up this disc, I recommend giving this feature a spin after your first viewing.
Jet Li was right when he said that this wasn't a Martial Arts film. It's nothing more than a lukewarm attempt at trying to capture what Johnnie To and several other directors have been doing for decades in Asian cinema. But, everything that's old hat in Asia seems to be new to American eyes. There's an audience out there for this material, it's just that it needs a little more time to become refined and work as great cinematic feats. Right now, we've just got the kung-fu version of Abbott and Costello meets That Wacky Asian Underworld.
Review by Troy Anderson
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 1st January 2008
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 EX English, Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround English
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Extras: 'The Action of War' - 9 Behind-the-Scenes Vignettes, Audio Commentary with Director Philip G. Atwell, Audio Commentary with Writers Lee Anthony Smith and Gregory J. Bradley, 'Scoring War' Featurette, Gag Reel, Audio Trivia Track, Deleted/Extended Scenes
Easter Egg: No
Director: Philip G. Atwell
Cast: Jason Statham, Jet Li, Devon Aoki, John Lone, Saul Rubinek, Luis Guzman, Nadine Velazquez
Length: 103 minutes
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