War(released Aug/07)stars actioners Jet Li as Rogue,Jason Statham as Crawford,along with John Lone as Chang,Devon Aoki as Kira,Luis Guzmán as Benny,Saul Rubinek as Dr. Sherman,Ryo Ishibashi as
Shiro,Sung Kang as Goi,Mathew St. Patrick as Wick,among others.This is a straight up violent melee' with a twist ending.Although the plot is a been-there,done-that scenario,director Ellis handles his chores with a deft touch,along with the nice editing and a driving musical score.
The story finds us in San Fran.There are two crime bosses,one Yakuza,Shiro,who has never stepped foot on U.S.soil but has underlings working there for him and controlling his interests.The second group is a Chinese Triad gang run by Chang.The Yakuza has slowly been encroaching upon his turf for years,which has dried up his liquid assets.Shiro is shipping a couple of priceless gold statues to the U.S.to sell on the black market and Chang intends to get them for himself.The money he obtains from their sale will more than put he and his empire on a better footing.
Entering this picture comes Crawford and Tom Lone,as two FBI partners.They take part in a bust of a Yakuza operation and a special hit man called the Rogue is shot in the incident.The Yakuza want revenge so they let the Rogue loose who "kills" Lone,his wife and child and sets the house on fire.Crawford is beside himself with grief,but revenge soon enters his heart.In the meantime we are privy to the Rogues disposition.That being he likes to think of himself as masterless,accountable to no one.With that mind set he has a penchant for working for one side while playing the other against itself.
As Crawford seeks out the Rogue,who leaves a signature titanium shell casing at every crime scene,the Rogue is busy stirring up the Triads and/or the Yakuza.
The Rogue,as the shipment of special statues arrive from Japan,is "working" for Chang,to secure them for him.This he accomplishes with relative ease.In the meantime Crawford finds the last of three remaining independent plastic surgeons who worked on the Rogues face,hiding in Mexico.He identifies a picture Crawford shows him of the Rogue.On the way out of the building the doctor goes down.
Back in the U.S.the Rogue finally meets Shiro,who has come to personally supervise the statues arrival.It seems the Rogue has been working for him all along.The Rogue delivers the stolen statues back to his boss,but his boss has been tipped off that the Rogue didn`t kill Chang`s wife and daughter as ordered.Shiro now wants the Rogue dead for disobedience.A battle royale ensues with everyone eliminated but the Rogue and Shiro,who then proceed to match swords.When asked by Shiro why he has turned on him,the Rogue says he ordered one hit too many...on his wife and daughter.In a flashback we see that Crawford`s partner,the day of the hit,did NOT die as we first thought.The Rogue was actually killed that day by Lone.To get revenge Lone had his own face altered and pretended to be the Rogue from then on,playing everyone off each other until he could get to Shiro.Shiro,just before he dies,informs Lone/Rogue,that his partner knew about the upcoming hit on his family.
Lone sets up a face to face meeting with his old partner Crawford at a pier.An FBI sniper is hidden above to take the Rogue down.The two end up tussling and the truth comes out.Lone outs himself while Crawford reveals he indeed did know of the upcoming visit by the Rogue,but it was supposed to be just a rough up,not a murder.Crawford asks for Lone`s forgiveness.Just as the sniper is about to fire,Crawford steps into his line of sight and Lone shoots Crawford in the back and flees.The movie ends as Lone,now the Rogue,flees across the Golden Gate bridge.
The film moves along at quite a good clip and the action,when it comes,comes fast and furious.Both Statham and Li are in fine form fighting in each of their trademark styles.The film is directed very nicely and where others movies can often lose the viewer with such back and forth storyline changes,this one seems to be able to generally keep us in the loop consistently through plot and visual cues.There are many good and well known Asian actors present also,in the form of the crime bosses and their underlings,and they all do a terrific job.Watch for Canadian actor Saul Rubinek as the doctor and a nice part done by Luis Guzman,who plays his part with a calm and straightforward touch.He`s usually playing some off beat weirdo scumbag,so it was nice to see him in this kind of role for a change.
Technically speaking the film is in its w/ a/r of 2:35:1 and is clear and crisp.Extras abound here with several commentaries,deleted scenes,a gag reel and featurettes.
All in all a nicely done cops versus crime gangs in San Francisco.Li and Statham are in fine form as the two former FBI mates that end up on opposite sides...with a twist.3 1/2-4 stars,and I`m leaning towards the 4th on this one.