A quick note…
My film reviews may be a little different to the regular ‘all-rounded’ overview of the film that you normally see or hear. I like to pick out certain elements that have stood out for me while watching a film such as a particular performance, scene, piece of dialogue or even some clothing and I find myself in a constant state of pausing, so I can quickly research something on the internet.
Before I start though on this film review, I would like to thank the writer of War (Lee Anthony Smith) for sending me the original script; it was such an honour to read your words! It was interesting to know John was the template for Chang’s character, he continues to inspire writers all over the world.
Starring: Jet Li (Rogue), Jason Statham (Jack Crawford) and John Lone (Chang)
Written by: Lee Anthony Smith and Gregory J. Bradley
IMDb ranking: 6.3/10
Rival gangs at war in San Francisco; Chang’s Triads and Shiro’s Yakuza, a cop seeking revenge, a mysterious assassin – these are all the ingredients to a great movie, and it doesn’t fail to deliver.
My husband is a fan of Jason Statham’s (a long standing joke that he is yet to pronounce his surname correctly) and I have seen a few of his other films, however, this to me is his best film, his best by a mile.
Statham plays Crawford “the cop that other cops want to be” – bending the rules with aggression, intimidation and intellect. He convincingly portrays his burning desire for revenge on the elusive assassin who killed his cop buddy. He leads his team the “Asian Organised Crime Unit” with a steely determination, impressively staying one step ahead of the crooks, other cops and everyone else…apart from Rogue (Li) so it seems.
I really enjoyed the banter in the crime unit – as someone who started off working life as a civilian in a London CID office – the banter felt very real (minus the guns). The one cop who stuck out for me was the one who mutters “they come into this country, you’d think they’d learnt to speak American” (or words to that effect) – as an English person this sent shudders down my spine, until I realised that cop was just playing to his uneducated stereotype and in fact quite a clever line of dialogue. It reinforced Crawford’s status as even more intellectually superior, he even speaks Japanese (as well as ‘English’) So there!
Something that will always amaze me about myself is when an animal dies on film it always horrifies me more than when people die. Someone could be hacked into a million pieces and beheaded and I could still munch my popcorn unaffected. If an animal ‘gets it’ then I am not sure if I can continue watching – many films I have switched off when this happens. The scene in the brothel with the Japanese Yakuza gang is explosive to say the least, I didn’t know if I could continue as the ticking bomb on the dogs collar ripped through the den. Rogue saved it for me as he came through sweeping up the remains – and of course his treachery on the Yakuza, who we thought he was working for, was quite intriguing. I stayed glued.
Jet Li to me is an incredible actor as well as martial artist. Personally I have not seen many ‘action’ stars transition between the two quite so well. He cuts a very handsome figure as Rogue, his character with no loyalties to anyone, I love the way he uttered “I have no master”. As the story continued we saw his humanity emerge and this was well worth the wait. Oddly enough I found this assassin likable from the start – his suits, his coldness, these are not very endearing traits – but I liked them, he was intriguing. What other man would rather look at a suitcase of money than a gorgeous naked lady in front of them? On a separate note its good to see that Jet will be starring in the upcoming live action version of Mulan. Wishing the great Wushu master all the best.
What other man would rather look at a suitcase of money than a gorgeous naked lady in front of them?
John as triad boss Chang was an excellent choice – I like softly-spoken, polite criminals, it’s quite chilling – more so than the archetype angry one. On the topic of John’s voice I found it quite remarkable that you can only tell a slight S.E. Asian accent now – I’m not sure if he did this on purpose or not, but there were a few words which jumped out where the accent was quite neutral – I couldn’t place it. I know I have previously mentioned this as a feature that I enjoy about John’s performances – I think I will be forever fascinated with his tonal range. As a lover of grand homes Chang’s mansion caught my eye too. The opening shot of the mansion was magnificent, warm and welcoming – like most places built from the extortion of others. I would have liked to have seen Chang’s family dynamics more – I feel his family became his focus rather than leading the triads, especially as he was insistent on no retaliation. He was very much a different triad boss from the past – taking a western wife and there seemed more to this part which I would like to have seen explored. I am assuming this was a Canadian film location shot (IMDb tells me that filming took place in Vancouver and San Francisco). I’ll try to find this place on an upcoming Canadian tour.
The story line itself keeps you on your toes, especially as Rogue seems to switch allegiance at the drop of a hat and you never know who he is working for. The twists were plentiful – I thought this was very clever writing. Something I aspire to myself.
As the film continues with the two gangs taking each other out, usually prompted by the manipulation of Rogue, we are treated to glorifying chase and fight scenes. My favourites include the scene where the younger Ti brother (Johnson Phan) is speared into the mouth and guts by Rogue and when Crawford drills a sword through a man’s hand too is great, reminded me of a scene in the original Kray’s film. It’s always more satisfying watching a baddie get taken out by a sword than a gun.
As a sucker too for a montage sequence I enjoyed the one with Crawford at the firing range, interspersed with scenes of police raids on the gangs – thought this was an effective visual, used at the right time in the film.
Devon Aoki’s performance as Kira, the daughter of the Japanese boss Shiro was outstanding, but I wished we could’ve seen more of her character. She seemed much more intimidating than her old man and of course there is nothing better than a beautiful lady gang boss, the face of an angel with a knife up her sleeve.
there is nothing better than a beautiful lady gang boss, the face of an angel with a knife up her sleeve
Chang’s death felt too early for me, but as the film continued I could see how crucial that element was and how it lead to the unraveling of the answers to the questions which had massed in my mind. The story plots in the film I couldn’t predict (I am normally the annoying one who has worked out the story line) and the ending “Make a new life” boxes were fabulous!
I have a challenge for Lee to now write the battle between Chang’s daughter and Kira! A girl boss showdown… please!