Jet Li may not be as popular an Asian star as Jackie Chan but he still has a reasonably devoted action fan following. Rogue Assassin (also released as War) teams action stars Jet Li and Jason Statham that instantaneously sets the tone for a lean, mean machine.
Unfortunately, the film turns out to be forced, flabby and formulaic. This isn't a martial arts movie. They just don't make them anymore. Sigh! How we miss the Bruce Lee flicks with the high pitched squeals where the Nanchaks were the central character and people flew without wirework or visual effects. Rogue Assasin is the new age urban-action/martial-arts hybrid.
The film is loosely inspired from the Japanese film, Yojimbo. In this Hollywood(ed) version Rogue (Jet Li) is a mysterious killer for hire that causes massive bloodshed between two San Francisco underworld families -- The Chinese Triads and the Japanese Yakuzas. A burnt-out FBI agent wages war on the celebrated assassin who killed his partner, his family, and a few hundred people for character buildup.
The battle between the gangs heats up, with much blood and gunplay and many testosterone trappings (flashy cars, high-tech weaponry) and done-to-death cops-and-robber sequences in nightclubs, gambling parlors and harbour docks. Thankfully, there is a clanging of Samurai swords as a meek nod to the gritty genre.
Soon, a crime boss's daughter, Devon Aoki (who played the enchanting starlet from Sin City) enters to add the romantic angle, plot twists and a few laughs. Though the climax offers an unexpected Shyamalan like twist, it seems unsatisfactory and the editing of the fight between the two main leads in the obligatory hyperactive MTV style will leave the audiences feeling cheated.
Most regrettably, War squanders the considerable merits of its leads. Not only are the action scenes annoyingly few and far between, but when they do bother showing up they look like half-hearted music videos that were edited with a rusty blender.
The Jet Li-Jason Statham action flick just doesn't take advantage of the charisma of the two, leaving the actors struggling to save a sagging storyline.
Watch the promotional trailer of the film online instead -- it's one of the most entertaining cuts of the film.