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The Japanese Mafia:
Yakuza, Law, and the State
by Peter B.E. Hill
(In Paperback from Amazon)
As bad as this film is, the worst part is what Jason Statham agreed to do in order to keep himself busy. With a portfolio of above average action movies to his credit, my only reason to see "War" was to keep up with his unique take on the action hero. With Jet Li collaboration, it only amounts to double the displeasure.
John Crawford (Statham) is a take-no-prisoners FBI agent whose posture amid a territorial war between Chinese triad and Japanese yakuza elements is hands-off, hoping they'll do an efficient job of eliminating each other. But when Rogue, the assassin with liquid steel running through his veins, takes out Crawford's partner and wife, the war referred to in the title is on.
Three years after that hit Crawford recognizes the signs of Rogue's return and pretty soon ID's him as businessman Victor Shaw. Shaw, for his part, keeps telling the bad guys he works for that he has no bosses and admits loyalty to no one. But he does appear to be in closest cahoots with Chang (John Lone), top of the Chinese crime chain.
The problem facing Crawford is that his enemy Shaw is as good as he is and, in some cases, better, eluding him at every turn. Finally, in the last act, the turn these events take is about as chintzy a plot trick as misguided commercialism could make it. Not saying what it is but if you're going to see this pot-boiler for whatever reason, be prepared to groan.
Statham's usual bag of tricks is capped by a feeble script and direction by Philip G. Atwell that fails to call for much originality from his martial arts choreographer Cory Yuen. These gentlemen may have been too constrained by a budget exhausted by paying its principals their high salaries to go for anything we haven't seen a lot of before. The assignment may have provided Statham a decent payday, but it's not his shining hour.
Li seems to have been satisfied with a smug leer to cover the essentials of his character because we see little more than that from him. This is an assassin who simply doesn't have to worry about the laws of physics or the constraints of reality nor, even, the fate of the villain to furnish us with final satisfactions.
Li's competitor in the smug department is Lone, who makes his powerful crime boss a device to keep the storyline oiled up and in mind to prevent it being obscured by the chase and combat action. More minor players brought in for character color do best, namely, Luis Guzman as a deep cover Interpol agent in tight cooperation with Crawford; and Saul Rubinek as a plastic surgeon who is as corrupt as the patch-on idea that brings him into the picture is vapid. The rest is cliche'.
~~ Jules Brenner