Does “WAR” achieve victory? Hardly. Just like Hitler didn’t learn from Napoleon, Jet Li didn’t learn from Cradle 2 the Grave and other past Americano mistakes.

The music video director has to be the guy to blame. Or maybe its the screen writer? Or could it be Lee himself? This movie felt like a hollow drum- something constantly to be banged on to produce the same noise over and over again until it becomes irritating. Can you still make music with such a device? Sure! But it really won’t have a lot of notes, and it won’t get any prettier. There were maybe 3 good fight scenes in the whole thing, only one of which involved Statham and only one involved Li. The rest were just sorta…meh. I mean I can’t even write a particularly intelligent review of this film.

This was a movie I had been looking forward to for over a year now, since it was announced that Jet Li would be FIGHTING Jason Statham. Now this movie was announced right around the time Jet Li was going into “retirement.”

Did his change in pace work out? Not really. See, he wasn’t retiring- he was merely changing his agenda- no more classical, long drawn out choreography? Ok, I can deal with that- after all Danny The Dog (also known as UNLEASHED in the states) was a great drama with some action sprinkles to keep it thrilling. His acting in Hero was the main emphasis of his role, with you never knowing which side he was playing.

That role particularly could be compared to this film, with Li’s new character Rogue being phoned in as a harsh Asian ripoff of the Man With No Name played by Eastwood (which, circularly, is a ripoff of a Japanese character, Yojimbo, played by Mifune). The setting for a such a character is well imagined- Yakuza vs. Triads in the dingy, dirty evil town of…San Fransisco…? Wow. Aside from the Golden Gate Bridge in two scenes this movie could have taken place in any town- with most of the locations even being referred to as generically as “Yakuza Turf” and “Triad Turf” and at the worst “Chang’s Warehouse 16.” I mean how freaking lazy can you get? Have you guys ever BEEN to San Fransisco? The one time the environment works to its advantage is one of the only passable action scenes in the film- a car chase down SF streets. However the chase actually starts strong and ends poorly. You see Statham chasing Li around trolley cars, across the huge gaping drops, and through tunnels, only for his car to slightly…dip over a guard rail or something and him to walk away barely even injured. This can essentially be seen as a metaphor for the whole film- great premise, poor execution, and a very weak and empty conclusion. And for future reference- Jason Statham does NOT LOSE CAR CHASES. Who the hell said “Hey Jason, you’re gonna let JET LI of all people out drive you.” And this is where the biggest problem with the movie really occurs- it was not made for the fans.

Now is it wrong to wish that? In most cases I’d say hell yes. But when you have such a simple meal ticket in the works with both Jet Li and Jason Statham being box-office gold in their last two separate movies (Li’s Fearless and Statham’s Crank both got in the top 5 opening weekend), the ambition in this movie seems to aim more towards Gangster Noir than action film- with cheesy character stories and overly cliche motivations pushing the story along. These are the types of movies designed to make big bucks, have big bangs, and get big cheers. I laughed a couple of times at both moments intentional and unintentional, but by the time the third act arrived and I still hadn’t seen Statham beating Jet Li to death or Li whipping Statham’s ass I knew there was something wrong.

By the end of this movie you’ll realize a few things you already knew:
1. Statham can act. Really well actually, and given a better script he could probably get A List in no time.
2. Jet Li can act- when the conventions of the film aren’t going against him and his accent issues. It’s forgivable in something like Unleashed because his character hardly ever speaks the first 20 some years of his life. In this movie its just plain irritating that he can’t speak English without any inflections. Perhaps the director is to blame, because I KNOW he was trying a lot harder in Kiss of the Dragon to pull off the English Accent and Anti Hero roles.
3. Neither of those things will matter when the script is inept enough to label a location with an exposition lettering “CHANG’S WAREHOUSE 16”

This movie was just made for dumb people. And I feel dumb for being cheated out of what would have been the coolest grudge match of the year. Maybe one of the best of all time. They better try a sequel or something and do it right. Get Luc Besson to back it and Yo Wuen Ping to choreograph and maybe we’ll have some REAL action.

WAR Totally does not strike a pose- both actors need to stay the hell away from Music Vid directors…you think Li would have learned that by now after Cradle 2 The Grave.

**/***** (2/5)