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3.2 out of 5 stars
The Art of War
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on August 17, 2003
Format: DVD
"The Art of War" was a pleasant surprise when I rented it. Once you get past the admitedly far-fetched premise that the UN has its own covert ops teams, it emerges as a spy movie that remembers how to be a spy movie. Rather than going the James Bond/Mission Impossible route of pitting a super-human spy agaisnt a supervillian, "The Art of War" serves up old-fashioned twists, turns, secrets, lies, betrayals, and assassination attempts.
Another nice thing about this movie is that it seems to understand the nature of post-Cold War politics. Nations now clash with treaties, trade agreements, and capitalist aspirations. By addressing issues such as the WTO, human traficking, and China's emerging status as an economic superpower, I got the distinct impression that the screenwriters actually read the newspaper. Ultimately, the plot doesn't quite hold up, but it's an admirable effort.
Snipes does a great job, never lightening the tone by playing to the cheap seats. By playing it straight he makes the film that much more believable. His fight scenes--including the end shootout feating slow-mo bullet-time--are both thrilling and plausible in a way that "The Matrix's" cgi-enhanced action can't manage.
Finally, the film just *looks* great. Director of Photography Pierre Gill plausibly passes off a lot of Canadian locations as Hong Kong and New York. He gives these cities a glossy sheen, a convincing grittiness, and a neon readiance, depending upon the scene.
All in all, I think if the movie had featured Tom Cruise or Keanu Reeves it would have been much better received. Too bad, since Snipes blows both of them off the screen. This one is definitely worth a look.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on January 22, 2001
It seems that in Hollywood these days many movie makers feel it is their duty to engage in political propaganda. Most of this propaganda is left-leaning and the Art of War is no exception.
As an action flick I found the movie entertaining. Snipes has the screen presence to earn this movie it's third star. Without him it deserves two at best.
However for some reason the film-makers decided to shove down our throats their personal beliefs that the UN should rule the world. This heavy handed poltical propaganda message is so ludicrous that it raises this movie feom the level of the mundane to the sublime... The idiocy of the movie's political message has to be seen to be believed. Ed Wood's work is unintentionally rivalled by hilarious tripe. This earns this movie its fourth star.
For example Ann Archer plays a character who is "evil" because she believes that it is wrong for American politicians and businessmen to give US nuclear secrets to Communist China who then give them to terrorist nations (like Iran). Apparently the movie makers believe that such actions by US citizens are good. Most people would call them treasonous.
These little gems surface throughout the movie and add a simply (and unintentionally) hilarious plotline. I laughed uproariously throughout! Definitely worth viewing!
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on January 3, 2003
Format: DVD
What's with the hate? I watched this movie numerous times. I liked it the first time but the movie gets better after you see it a few times because you start to pick things up that you missed. I am big fan of action films and this movie delivers, yes it predictable at times but what movie isn't. I thought the actors did a pretty good job also. The film also ended on a good note makes you feel good especially with the nice musical score the films has. Wish they would of actually made a score soundtrack for the film.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on November 20, 2009
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
Well first off let me start by saying I don't care what people say about the movie or Snipes, it was a great movie. For those who think different, they didn't really see the movie or botherd to take a look at the time frame of when it was created. I have seen almost all of Wesley's action films but this one is the best to date next to blade. From the suspence to the martial art action sequences, Snipes delivers. When watching the movie I understood exactly what was going on just by the actions of the characters alone. He worked for the UN and was setup by the UN is the whole story in a nut shell but the trip taking to find out the truth makes the movie worth watching. If your looking for some action that involves a twist of Martial arts and spy technology this is one film to add to your list. I only wish Wesley Snipes can bring that much energy and more in his films over the next few years(if of course he dosen't go to jail).
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on February 10, 2001
Format: DVD
Most people can't differentiate between a bad film and a film they don't like. Many people didn't like this motion picture because of its liberal subtext. That doesn't make it a bad film. Most don't realize that this is a Canadian production, and that probably explains the political slant. However, as action films go, it is intelligent, high tech, stimulating, bordering on believable (seldom are action flicks actually believable), with plenty of violence. I didn't particularly agree with its "New World Order" message, but it is still a solid film.
The main criticism I have of the film is the editing. In an attempt to make the story more intriguing, it is pasted together in a convoluted way that makes it very difficult to follow. All the factions and motivations are eventually explained, but one has to pay very close attention or see the movie a few times to catch them all. The screenplay suffers from an excess of subplots, which makes following the story that much more difficult. The biggest sin committed by the producers and director was that they did not understanding their audience. This film targets action lovers, who are a visceral lot. They want to be stimulated, not confused and intrigued. They also tend to be more conservative politically (God, Guns, Guts). So naturally, the film bombed.
Wesley Snipes delivers a strong performance in the intelligent action hero role. Snipes seems to be locked in the action genre when he is really too bright for the roles he plays. He should take a lesson from Samuel L. Jackson and look for scripts that are more dramatic. Jackson still does action films (Shaft), but he picks parts portraying complex characters and scripts with strong character development, instead of straight macho testosterone parts. Snipes would have done well in some of the roles Jackson has had. Anne Archer does a fine job as the manipulative career diplomat, pulling everyone's strings behind the scenes. Donald Sutherland is a bit flaccid in this film, but his character really didn't have a lot of bite.
Overall, this film is a strong entry into a genre dominated by mindless body count. I rated it an 8/10. Those who like their action flicks to be completely believable subtract two points. Subtract another two points for those who don't like confounding story lines. For those who abhor screen violence, don't even bother.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
"The Art of War" was Wesley Snipes' first film following a two-year break from Hollywood and his first starring vehicle since Blade. Disappointingly, it was also a movie made during the height of Hollywood's superficially glossy period and treated as such by most viewers, therein becoming one of Snipes' larger dramatic and commercial flops at the time. Nevertheless, it holds some appeal to me that mainstream critics tend to overlook, and after a steady diet of Snipes' current direct-to-video output, this looks fine by comparison. Basically, this isn't a movie for people who like Wesley for New Jack City, but casual action-thriller aficionados ought to enjoy it with some popcorn.

The story: an undercover operative (Snipes) is framed and hunted for the murder of a Chinese ambassador during the crafting of a politically powerful trade agreement between the UN and China, moving him to sift through a web of betrayal and corruption to find the real culprits.

Though co-writer Wayne Beach had worked on a Wesley Snipes vehicle before, this film clearly thinks it's cleverer than it actually is. You can see the inevitable twists coming from a mile away, and even though it's trying to be politically relevant with a vaguely anti- right-wing slant, it ultimately feels shallow yet still over-concerned with its imagined relevance. With that said, if you can enjoy isolated moments, director Christian Duguay (Joan of Arc) manages some good scenes of pop drama with Snipes delivering a more than serviceable acting performance. Where other actors are concerned, I liked Maury Chaykin (Nero Wolfe) as Wesley's eventual ally but was disappointed that Cary Tagawa (Mortal Kombat) and James Hong (Big Trouble in Little China) are stuck with relatively small roles and aren't afforded much action.

Speaking of action, the movie isn't brimming with it but what's there is generally good. What attracted me to the film more than anything was the involvement of Ron Yuan as fight choreographer (Black Dynamite), yet his services are only utilized for two scenes: the surprisingly nifty one-against-many brawl in the beginning of the movie and (SPOILER) the eventual showdown with Michael Biehn's (Aliens) character, which sounds like it should suck but is actually pretty decent. There are a couple chase scenes here and there, but these fall victim to overzealous editing: for example, in pursuing an assassin, Snipes slides down the handrails of a staircase, but all we see is him mounting the rails before we get one cutaway shot and a jump cut to him at the bottom of the stairs. Seriously, Chris Duguay - if you're going to put a stunt like that in the movie, at least actually film it, huh?

The movie won more than a bit of acclaim for its art direction and cinematography (we can only assume the critics weren't counting the handrail copout), and I have to admit that the picture is a fairly aesthetic one, if you can overlook the datedness of the graphics. This won't save the movie for someone who's decided they already don't like it, so know yourself before making a purchase. If nothing else, know that only a half-decade later, Wesley would be doing junk like The Marksman, and this one will probably seem a lot better by comparison.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 23, 2002
Format: DVD
I really liked this movie. I saw the other reviews and was surpised by them.
I bought the movie really on the back of films like Blade, Passenger 57 and US Marshals. Its a good action film, one that holds your interest and is watchable again and again.
Not sure I take my films as seriously as some others...I didn't see this as some American or UN jingoistic offering, I just saw Wesley beat the bad guys! ...and it was fun!
If you like films like Mission Impossible, Chain Reaction, Three Kings, The Fugitive, etc... then I think you'll find this enjoyable.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on January 16, 2001
Format: DVD
Fairly engaging action thriller about U.N. covert operatives trying to salvage a trade agreement with China as various unsavories try to torpedo it. Snipes turns in a surprisingly wooden performance (I've come to expect better from him.) A fair number of martial arts scenes, with some pretty good moves, but the photography is poorly executed so that the fight scenes blow by in a flurry of fists and feet with no real opportunity to see the techniques being used. The primary device for generating excitement involves jumping from great heights and smashing through glass. An inordinate amount of glass is broken in this movie. Still, it moves along briskly, and is never dull.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 28, 2001
Format: DVD
This movie reminded me so much of the first offering of Mission Impossible, starred, Tom Cruise. Shaw (played by Wesley Snipes) didn't exist but worked behind the scene on United Nations' behalf to influence the decision making process. Thing started to get awry when his task as an observer to Chinese Ambassador went horribly wrong. Instead of being a puppet master, Shaw became the puppet. Associates that worked with him (notably Michael Biehn of Terminator, Aliens fame) were murdered. Police & FBI were on his tail as Shaw was framed (predictably). By coincidence, he bumped into an attractive female journalist who eventually worked along his side to solve the puzzle & to clear his name. Art of War, by Sun Tzu was touched upon briefly here, asking the question who should we trust. What annoyed me about the movie was the usage of Japanese to play Chinese characters. For discerning viewers, the supposedly Mandarin & Cantonese they spoke in the movie were hardly legible. To my pleasant surprise, the cinematography of the movie was quite innovative & fast paced. Donald Sutherland was more into a cameo appearance, Anne Archer acted as Shaw's superior, Murray Chaulkin led a solid supporting cast. Overall, an above average action thriller with a predictable predicament but still, a well-made movie. It could almost be rendered as a Chinese bashing movie but we wouldn't go there.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 15, 2011
Format: DVD
Short and sweet, this was a great movie. Snipes played the part straight. None of the phony James Bond, Steven Seagal, Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone...overacting or even impossible feats. The story flowed smoothly, lots of actions, but a little to much cold blooded murder by the bad guys but the characters they played were real and identifiable . You could feel the emotion Snipes was feeling about what is wrong with what he was paid to do and his job. Great fight scenes and a good logically possible ending and just the right amount of teasing nude scenes.
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