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War: Movie Review

It’s one of my most awaited pairings (no not the romantic pairing, I don’t have much love for romance) of all time. Jason Statham and Jet Li in a single movie! Again, The One being the first collaboration between the two.

For some reason I am yet to find, the movie title has been changed to Rouge Assassin in Asia, which as I found out later in the film, is a rather literal description of the story, while it retains it’s original name elsewhere in the world. Anyway, the choice was between Resident Evil: Extinction and War. I opted for War so as not to traumatize my girlfriend with another bout of my horror-fanboyism.

War Movie PosterCharacters:
The horror-movie-like flashbacks really did wonders with the character development which added a bit more emphasis on the story and the how it affected each character rather than the fight scenes and the bloodbath (which I’m quite sure people who intend to watch the film are likely to expect).

Jet Li is the main protagonist who seeks revenge over the death of his family by assuming the identity of Rogue (see? Rogue the Assassin in Rogue Assassin? Can’t get more descriptive or literal than that). He plays both (or was it three sides?) of the warring Yakuza and Mafia factions in a masterful display of wit and guile. More on that later.

Jason Statham plays Rogue’s old friend who had an unintentional hand at the death of his family. His character, Jack Crawford seeks atonement by putting the Yakuza boss, Shiro, played by Ryo Ishibayashi, to justice. Like all his previous roles, namely in The transporter, and Cranked, John’s character is a cool (not coolheaded), morally-inclined, straightforward and piss-me-off-and-ill-blow-your-head-off-character who is driven by guilt and a sort of warped sense of justice. For about half the movie, I thought Jason was the saner of the two protagonists, until the whole story was revealed that is.

The movie casts a slew of Japanese and Chinese actors and actress to provide some authenticity to the story. After all, who in the world would believe a Yakuza or Mafia story when all the actors are all non-asians.

Most notable in their performances are Kenneth Choi, Ryo Ibayashi, Devon Aoki and John Lone.

Kenneth’s role of Shiro’s is probably one of the best English-Yakuza scenes I’ve seen. The last time I saw him was as a pedia in House M.D. and the transition from doctor to full-fledged gangster was really astounding.

Although Devon Aoki was one of the few better Japanese actresses in Hollywood, why does her Japanese sound so…. fake? She didn’t seem to have the proper diction worthy of all other Japanese actors present in the film like Ryo Ishibashi. I did a quick research and found out that she was half Japanese, quart German and quart English which might explain her better proficiency with English and not Japanese diction.

Plot:
A feud between the Yakuza and the Mafia provides a terrific backdrop for War’s REAL story. Although the main point of the story is Rogue’s revenge, how he got where he was and how he exacted revenge was well worth the movie. After reading and watching all the versions of Death Note (manga, anime and Live Action Movies), I developed an appetite for some intelligent piece that would get my brain cells working. War sates that hunger and then some.

Storytelling:
Nothing out of the ordinary for an action film although I did notice that some of the scenes needed further explanation or at least a second look. I would point to the scene where Rogue calls Jack to a warehouse controlled by the Triad. When Jack forced open the warehouse with the warrant, they found Rogue and the exchange would prove a bit baffling for anyone not familiar with a movie of this genre.

The movie takes a bit of a hit with the final exchange between Jack and Rogue. It felt almost as if the story was ended prematurely after Rogue finally accepts his identity and shoots Jack. Some form of a better explained or visualized closure would’ve been more appreciable.

As a side note, the ending was anti-climatic.

Other Stuff:
As with all Jason Statham films, War’s action scenes are as brutal as it can get. Although the version that I saw was full of cuts (and amateurly done at that) I was still able to tell about 90% of what was unscrupulously edited off the final film. Note to self: Rant about MTRCB in the next heavily edited movie post. That said however, action fans of both Jet Li and Jason Statham would be a tad disappointed as the movie’s fight scenes mostly involved guns instead of the usual martial arts that we’d grown to love in their respective films.

Honor, loyalty, betrayal, revenge and trust, War was able to incorporate these human traits and emotions and created an atmosphere that fitted so-well every aspect of the story. Honestly, if I were Rogue, I’ d do the same thing.

The lack of a final battle between the two protagonists was a big let down for me. Yes, the scenes were more realistic than people flying all over the place but it seemed a bit lacking. I’ve been waiting for a collaboration between them for quite a while and all I get was a 3-minute fist fight and talk. I guess you can’t have it all.

Nonetheless, the movie is a great watch for those interested in substance rather than just random fight scenes.

Rating 8/10

You can view more info on the movie’s official site. The whole site is a single flash movie though so prepare for a long wait.

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