Thursday Night Movie Club
The Art of War
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Release Date: August 25, 2000

Director: Christian Duguay
Wesley Snipes
Anne Archer
Maury Chaykin
Marie Matiko
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa
Michael Biehn
Donald Sutherland
Liliana Komorowska
James Hong
Neil Shaw
Eleanor Hooks
Julia Fang
David Chan
Robert Bly
U.N. Secretary General
Ambassador Wu
The Art of War movie poster
If this is art...?? This is a standard action movie, very big on the action and suspense but lacking in character development and intrigue. There may have been something missing on the soundtrack because I had a difficult time following the actions of Neil Shaw (Wesley Snipes). Shaw and his team of "unknowns" are United Nations operatives working under the orders of Eleanor Hooks (Anne Archer). Hooks is the main confidante/advisor to the assistant to the U.N. Secretary General Douglas Thomas (Donald Sutherland). Hooks and her team manipulate the political landscape to achieve their agenda. "Whose" agenda is the main question here.

The team is successful in orchestrating a "blackmail" scheme with the goal of bringing together opposing forces in the Free Trade Agreement with China. On the eve of the negotiating process, events turn horribly wrong. Ambassador Wu (James Hong - wouldn't be a movie about Chinese people without him) is murdered and his adversary wounded. While chasing the assassin, Shaw's partner Bly (Michael Biehn) is killed and Shaw runs right into the arms of the New York Police.

It appears that there is a new player on the scene bent on destroying both sides of the conflict and causing embarrassment for the U.N. Unless of course you are like me and have seen too many of these movies to be sucked in by the "obvious". I have just mentioned both of the obvious developments and I was sorely disappointed to find out that I was right in both cases.

In one fantastic action scene after another (are there any other kind in this type of movie), Shaw pieces together the complicated puzzle. First arriving at the apartment of his other team member, just a little too late, and then again at a local hospital to rescue U.N. translator Julia Fang (Marie Matiko) from the "bad guys". In both of these scenes, Shaw rather impassionedly murders the assassins without a second thought as in possibly questioning them first. Gratuitous violence without forethought is first and foremost in this movie... unfortunately. Or as my friend and fellow Thursday Night Movie Club reviewer discussed, maybe you don't need to interview the assassins because they don't know anything other than the target. This makes sense to me but is not alluded to in the movie.

The success of this movie is based on three major plot twists. Two of these were discussed above. The third is "who is behind the manipulations." And in rule #106 of the "movie cliche handbook" by Larry Novotny, the bad guy is always someone previously introduced in the movie. So if you think about all of the possible subjects, and there is only one in this case, you end up with an action movie with no payoff. Rule #64 (I'll have to check the number on this...see my review of "What Lies Beneath") is also violated. Look for an actor who does not have much to do in the first half of a movie to have a big part in the last part of the movie. Enough said!

There is however one actually brilliant scene in this movie. As Shaw is leaving the apartment of his murdered partner, his face is framed in a broken mirror. It is an arresting shot that quickly develops into Shaw recreating in his mind the events that recently transpired in the room. The use of flashbacks here is used to great effect.

This is a movie that must have sounded great if you verbally explained the plot synopsis. Unfortunately, it should have been re-written to tighten up the plot holes. The only good point of this movie is FBI Agent Capella (Maury Chaykin) who provides the only humor in this movie.