Director by Philip G. Atwell
War is director Philip G. Atwell's Hollywood feature debut, after cutting his teeth on hip-hop music videos – experience that translates onto celluloid in the form of flying bullets, swords and fists, punctuated by dramatic explosions, fast cars, and some very beautiful women.
Jason Statham reprises his US accent – until he shouts, that is – as an FBI agent who is hell-bent on bringing mysterious mercenary Rogue (Li) to justice for killing his partner. This personal vendetta unfolds within a larger war on the streets of San Francisco, as the Yakuza's hired gun begins to play his paymasters off against the Triads, while staying one step ahead of the authorities.
Sharp dialogue has been dismissed at the expense of sharp swords and sharper suits. Jet Li hardly says a word but his actions speak volumes as the corpses mount up. This is an action film, and a violent one at that – the bloodshed matches an abattoir staffed by accident-prone hemophiliacs. The obligatory twist in the denouement suggests that there is a moral buried somewhere beneath the body count: the effect of violence, the reasons for it and the desire to avenge it, rips apart every relationship in the film. In this age of pared-down anti-heroes – see Bourne, Bond and Shooter – War is a welcome return to the genre of the anti-villain.
(That's Beijing by Jonathan White October 18, 2007)