War

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NEW YORK -- The teaming of Jet Li and Jason Statham results in a union that's less than the sum of its parts in "War," one of the many entries in the annual late summer B-movie onslaught. Lacking even the galvanizing action sequences that would have compensated for suffering through its formulaic plot, this is a thoroughly forgettable exploitationer that will not enhance its stars' resumes. The film opened Friday without being screened for the press.

The film works in plenty of the familiar elements, from the tough cop out for revenge to the mysterious assassin on a mission to the usual convoluted plot machinations involving the Asian underworld. When the partner and family of FBI agent Crawford (Statham) are brutally murdered, he vows to get revenge on the mysterious assassin who subsequently disappeared. Cut to three years later, when the killer named "Rogue" (Li) returns to become involved in a turf war between the Chinese Triads and the Japanese yakuzas. About 90 minutes later, the audience finally gets what it came to see, a protracted hand-to-hand combat between the stars.

Unfortunately, that altercation -- edited in the obligatory hyperactive style -- is less than overwhelming, as is everything that has come before it. Although there is plenty of violence on display -- including shootouts, car chases and sword battles -- none of the sequences compare in excitement to virtually anything seen in Li or Statham's oeuvre.

Statham glowers with his usual effectiveness, but has little opportunity to show off his intense charisma. And Li, wearing a slight smirk throughout the entire proceedings, rarely displays the amazing physicality of which he's still clearly capable.

Lee Anthony Smith and Gregory J. Bradley's screenplay attempts to throw in some character-defining quirks -- the cop is afraid of his wife finding out he still smokes, the killer has really organized closets, etc. -- to little effect. And the final would-be surprising revelation, involving a pretty extensive plastic surgery job, is too little, too late.

The supporting cast includes the superb John Lone, here wasted as a crime boss, and Mathew St. Patrick and Andrea Roth, both of whom have been seen to much better effect in their TV gigs on HBO's "Six Feet Under" and FX's "Rescue Me," respectively. One of the film's best unintentional laughs comes with Devon Aoki's ordering some tough guys at gunpoint to get her some salad, fast, with the dressing on the side.

WAR
Lionsgate
Cast:
Director: Philip G. Atwell
Screenwriters: Lee Anthony Smith, Gregory J. Bradley
Producers: Steven Chasman, Christopher Petzel, Jim Thompson
Executive producer: Mike Elliott
Director of photography: Pierre Morel
Production designer: Chris August
Costume designer: Cynthia Ann Summers
Cast:
Rogue: Jet Li
Crawford: Jason Statham
Chang: John Lone
Kira: Devon Aoki
Benny: Luis Guzman
Dr. Sherman: Saul Rubinek
Shiro: Ryo Ishibashi
Running time -- 99 minutes
MPAA rating: R
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