I've been stunned by the career of Wesley Snipes. Forget the whole IRS issue from this past year. It has nothing to do with his acting ability or star power. But for someone to rise from bit parts to starring roles and then suddenly find himself in direct to video films, one has to question...what happened? Especially when he turns in a decent movie like THE ART OF WAR II: BETRAYAL.
Snipes returns as agent Neil Shaw, having gone underground at the end of the first film. Shaw receives word that his mentor and martial arts instructor, Mother, has passed away. At the funeral service, Shaw and the rest of those gathered meet the daughter no one knew Mother had. Heather (Athena Karkanis) talks with Shaw, blaming him for Mother's death only to change her mind later.
From there, Shaw goes to work as a consultant on a movie set where he has become friends with the star, Garrett (Lochlyn Munro). Invited to his boat, Shaw learns that Garrett is about to run for the Senate. It is then that he asks for Shaw's help with an apparent blackmailer. But as with all good spy/thriller films, nothing is what it seems.
As Shaw begins to dig into the possibilities, he also comes into contact with a Senator Carlson (Rachel Hayward), running once more for office and under observation by Shaw's old nemesis, Becker (Eric Brecker). It seems that there is an assassination attempt in store for the Senator and Shaw is on the case, unofficially of course, searching for not only the killer but the person behind the sanction.
Following up on leads, Shaw shows at a political cocktail party to question another Senator. Unfortunately for Shaw, the Senator has been murdered and he has been set up to take the fall. Downloading material from the Senator's computer, he escapes and heads out to get the help of a computer whiz kid friend to find out just what he's come across.
The information provided puts Shaw back in harms way as well as his friends. While Shaw continues to search for the person who set him up for murder, Becker and his crew begin searching for Shaw through his friends beginning with Heather. On the lam with Heather in tow, Shaw cautiously puts together the pieces, linking the Senators to an arms developer named Sallas (Michael Phenicie). The question remains, who is behind Sallas?
While the movie at first seems to wind around different roads in search of something to pull them together, in the end it all becomes clear. The leads that Shaw finds make sense and come closer together with each new clue. What appears to be at first confusing makes perfect sense by films end.
Action is what Snipes career is all about since he starred in PASSENGER 57 and the BLADE films. And those looking for the typical Snipes action are in for a treat. The fight sequences seen here are not only well put together but filmed to advantage as well. The entire look of the film is top notch.
It's been 8 years since Snipes played the character of Neil Shaw. His abilities have not dwindled in that time. This takes us back to the initial question I had. What happened to Snipes career? Why has he gone from top billing on the big screen to direct to DVD features that show he is as competent as always? Perhaps only those in power in Hollywood have the answer. In the meantime, we can still enjoy the product Snipes offers, delivering the goods with each outing.