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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 12/13/00

The Art of War
2000 (2000) - Morgan Creek/Warner Bros. (Warner)

review by Todd Doogan of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

The Art of War Film Rating: C+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/A/C

Specs and Features

117 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual layer (layer switch at 56:56, in chapter 17), cast and crew filmographies, 7 theatrical trailers (for The Art of War, Battlefield Earth, Chill Factor, The In Crowd, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, The Whole Nine Yards, Young Guns II), film-themed menu screens with music, languages: English (DD 5.1), subtitles: English, Closed Captioned

It's New Year's Eve 1999 at the prestigious Jade Park hotel in Hong Kong and a huge party is being thrown by billionaire David Chan. Out of the crowd, a mysterious man in a black tux pulls some viscous (and quite unorthodox) negotiating tactics and is able to get some long delayed peace talks between North and South Korea back on track. Who is this mysterious man and on which side of the fence is he playing? Well, that's hard to say, because officially he doesn't exist. Unofficially, he's Neil Shaw (Wesley Snipes) and he works for a secret department within the UN, a department whose job it is to make hard things - impossible things - happen, any way he can.

Six months later, a group of Hong Kong refugees that has been missing for a month pop up dead - filling the to brim a shipping canister delivered to a New York port. Ambassador Wu from China is driving his fist into the table, chastising the UN. This is on the eve of a huge UN sanctioned trade treaty with China, that will benefit a great many people. But it's also a treaty that a few want stopped, and those few are willing to kill to stop it. Who's responsible? Is it someone on the inside of the UN like Neil Shaw? Is it David Chang, who seemingly benefits most from this trade agreement and, from all outward appearances, would have no need to stop the treaty? Or is it Ambassador Wu, whose xenophobic attitude is hidden by his support of the treaty? To find out, many things will explode, bullets will fly and people will get kicked in the face. So that pretty much means a good time will be had by all.

The Art of War isn't a bad film. It's pretty brainless, really, but so are many such action flicks. What it lacks is true style, even if it tries to pretend it has some. Oh... there's plenty of movie rain, witty lighting effects and some really killer action sequences, but The Art of War is nothing more than second-rate James Bond meets The Fugitive, with some Rising Sun and Mission: Impossible thrown in. It's kind of funny that Snipes was in two out of the four films in that recipe. Furthering the idea that there's no real creativity in the film, you'll find your requisite bullet-time sequence. The Art of War is by the numbers and, when it's not, it's so contrived that you'll have a hard time believing it when it's all over. And yet... while you watch it, you'll have a good time. As an action film, it has its charms. It just lacks panache.

The picture quality on this DVD is virtually flawless. Colors are bright and the blacks are solid. Image detail is crisp strong and there's not any edge enhancement to be found. It's a really beautiful picture. One side note though - there are a few scenes in the film that feature digital images and those images feature artifacts that are supposed to be there (so don't wig out if you see them). About the only thing I noticed in this transfer that was questionable is a hair on the print at about the 1:27:26 mark. But that's it, and not many would notice something so trivial. The sound field is also damn good. We get a Dolby Digital 5.1 track and it's pretty fun and aerobic - jumping from speaker to speaker. The bass isn't too over the top, and the dialogue channel is clean and clear. All in all, it's a well-prepared disc. There aren't any real extras to speak of, aside from some filmographies and trailers for this and other Morgan Creek produced films. But then again, I don't think I need a "making-of" or commentary for this film anyway, so I'm not planning on holding anything against it there.

The Art of War isn't the greatest action film ever made, and it won't sit in your mind for long after viewing it. But it's not going to hurt you either. If you haven't got anything better to do with an hour and a half of your life, check it out. Maybe you'll enjoy it. Or maybe you won't. There's only one way to find out.

Todd Doogan
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