Plot: What’s it about?
It would seem that Wesley Snipes has been down this road before. Mention a movie about Snipes as an investigator into some Chineese foul play and I’d tell you “Rising Sun” before you finished your sentence. I’d be wrong, of course, as Rising Sun dealt with Japan and not China, but there’s just too many movies that are that similar these days…even featuring the same actors. This is not new terriroty for Wesley Snipes, who has starred in his share of hits like Major League, White Men Can’t Jump and New Jack City. Movies like Passenger 57 and Boiling Point are nearly the same as this newer, cookie-cutter action movie…and to Snipes’ justice, he is the glue that holds the film toghther. But enough about him. The movie opens on Dec. 31, 1999 (just when you thought it was safe, there are still more of those “Y 2K” movies out there). Snipes and his crew are keeping an eye on some of the major players of a Chineese/United States trade agreement…and wouldn’t you know it, something goes wrong. We don’t really know who or what Snipes’ character is or does, and it doesn’t seem to be a major point of the storytellers to let us in on their little secret.
Bless Mission: Impossible for it’s mainstream success of introducing gadgets. Nowadays we see people peering through objects no larger than a wristwatch and we don’t hardly know what to expect. But I digress…It turns out that Neil Shaw (Wesley Snipes) is actually a covert United Nation’s operative. His job is to turn up the dirty stuff of others while Canadian UN bigwig (Donald Sutherland) is there to take all the credit. Playing a small part and looking more like a “home boy” for the better part of the movie, is Bly (Michael Biehn). Biehn is another great actor whose talents were wasted on this movie as well, but if you’re a fan of his work, then you should have no gripes. Back to the plot (I get distracted). A boatload of Chineese immigrants turns up in New York City and before you know it, there is an assanation and wouldn’t you know it–Neil Shaw is the one they’re looking for. What if every other movie took the same cookie-cutter approach as “The Fugutive”? While ducking through the city with the aide of his sidekick (Marie Matiko), who seems to get better-looking throughout the movie, we see Shaw try and clear his name.
What’s so odd about The Art of War is that the talent is there. Snipes, Anne Archer, Maury Chaykin (best known for his general who commits suicide in Dances with Wolves), Donald Sutherland and Michael Biehn. With this cast, this movie really should have been a lot better, but it just wasn’t. At times I found myself a bit caught up in the action, only for the scene to end and then I had to say “now what’s going on…”. A bright spot would have to be Chaykin’s role, he plays it so dry that it’s just funny to watch. He seems disgusted that he’s even in the movie, but he brings a bit to the role none the less. While it’s true that there are worse movies out there, there are also far better. Seeing this movie in a theater I wouldn’t recommend, but this is a DVD Review, so I have to say that the audio and video presentation are amazing at the very least. So it’s up to you…do you want to see what your home theater system can do or do you want to watch a movie with substance, plot and generally has a point?
Video: How does it look?
One of the few good things that can be said about this movie is the fact that it’s 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer is one of the best that I’ve ever seen. Colors, though dark throughout, look dead on as do black levels. I saw no shimmering, artifacting or any evidence of anything that could make this image look bad. There is the slightest bit of edge enhancement, but it’s hardly noticeable. I don’t know what more words could say. This is one great looking DVD.
Audio: How does it sound?
In addition to the reference quality video, we are treated with an equally excellent Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. From the opening scene (which rivals something out of The Matrix), to the closing credits; the surrounds are constatntly humming. Gunfire (which there is quite a bit), explosions, glass breaking and about any other sound effect you can imagine make full use of the speakers. The range is very dynamic, which, at times…actually got me into the movie. It’s too bad that I wasn’t that engrossed the whole way through. Still, the audio is top notch, if nothing else, rent this for the sound.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Unlike a lot of Warner’s other movies that weren’t successful at the box-office, this one was not really given the benefit of any real additional features. Included is the original theatrical trailer (which makes this movie look intriguig) and some cast bios. Aside from that, there’s nothing to be found…unless you count trailers for Robin Hood and “other great Morgan Creek Movies”. I guess we’ve become so used to seeing even the bad movies get the deluxe treatment, we don’t know what to do when a bad movie gets what it deserves. It’s just as well, I guess.