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Art of War, The

Wesley Snipes has his own "Mission: Impossible" trying to overcome a tired, muddled screenplay.


Neil Shaw (Snipes) is an ultra-covert American agent who uncovers an international plot to bring down the United Nations. When the Chinese ambassador is assassinated in cold blood on the eve of an open trade agreement, Shaw loses the killer and is captured as the prime suspect. But before he can be sprung by his own team (Michael Biehn and Liliana Komorowska), the Chinese mafia ambushes him, the plot gets way too confusing, and only a beautiful, reluctant Chinese translator (Marie Matiko) can help sort the whole mess out.


Continuing his "Blade"-style taciturn monosyllabic delivery, Snipes remains a stalwart action hero but gives us nothing to sympathize with. Jumping and kicking through some well-choreographed fight scenes, he ultimately fails to make us care, largely due to a poorly drawn character. Supported by a one-note Biehn and a competent Komorowska who try hard to create a "True Lies" camraderie, Snipes is at his best when he's in motion and not delivering bad dialogue. Matiko is passable as the translator, but has little more to do than pout and dodge shattered glass. Donald Sutherland and Anne Archer (as U.N. bigwigs), brought in solely as supporting star power, deliver the stiffest performances of their careers.


Working his acrobatic camera frenetically around each scene, Montreal-born director Christian Duguay ("Screamers," "The Assignment") is in his element when the fists and pyrotechnics fly. But when the leaden plot and by-the-numbers dialogue take center stage, he stumbles. This film covers so much familiar territory it's almost impossible to craft an original story, but surprisingly, Duguay manages to make it highly watchable.

Bottom Line

Some intense, high-kicking action, but the original script should have been titled "The Art of Snore."


Starring Wesley Snipes, Marie Matiko, Anne Archer, Donald Sutherland and Michael Biehn.

Directed by Christian Duguay. Produced by Nicolas Clermont. Screenplay by Kevin Bernhardt, Wayne Beach and Simon Davis Barry. Released by Warner Bros.