“War” sounds fantastic as long as you’re not a part of it. Sure, the idea of Jason Statham and Jet Li battling it out on the big screen is undeniably tempting, but now that the movie is out in theatres, all you get for your money and interest is, well…nothing. Instead of hitting us with continuous fighting sequences and thrilling high-speed pursuits, Philip G. Atwell‘s feature film debut spends an eternity building up an intrigue that never explodes.

FBI agent Jack Crawford (Statham) is pissed. His shoulder is still recovering from a bullet he caught during a shoot-out with some bad guys and now he also has to cope with the death of his longtime partner Tom, who together with his family has been brutally assassinated by a ruthless Yakuza named Rogue (Li).

What Crawford didn’t expect is that his quest for revenge would get a little trickier than expected. A man of many faces, Rogue is in the process of settling a score of his own, provoking a massive war between Yakuza boss Shiro (Ryo Ishibashi) and Triad leader Chang (John Lone).

“War” is doomed from the beginning for so many reasons, but the script by Lee Anthony Smith and Gregory J. Bradley is certainly the movie’s largest flaw. Not only is the plot brainless, but it also misses its target. You would expect the film to center on Statham and Li tearing each other into pieces, but in truth, all you get to watch is how skillfully Rogue sets up the Yakuza against the Triads, and vice versa. At one stage you’ll even lose track of events because you just don’t care anymore. Not that you ever have.

Okay, so we got Li screwing over the Chinese and Japanese, and Statham showing up at bloody crime scenes looking for Rogue; now, where does that leave the action?

It takes about 40 minutes for something to happen, and BANG, there we are absorbing yet another disappointment. Instead of supplying the audience with visually spectacular stunts à la “Kiss of the Dragon” and “The Transporter”, Atwell and crew only offer a selection of lame shoot-outs and banal moves, which were miserably choreography by martial arts expert Corey Yuen. A bone-crushing finale, maybe? Big negative on that one too, which leaves the impression that the screenwriters ran out of ideas or the production ran out of budget.

Not much can be said about performances, because there really aren’t any. “War” occasionally tries to go soft on us and spread out some emotions via Statham’s character, but hey, nobody gives a hoot. And as for Li, he wears black sunglasses and a black dress all throughout the movie anyway, mostly standing there like a robot trying to play it cool and enjoying his game of betrayal. Well, that makes at least one who’s enjoying himself.

Review by Franck Tabouring