The Art Of War review

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He's not yet down to the standards of Sherilyn Fenn, Eric Roberts and - - shudder - - Daniel Baldwin, but if Wesley Snipes doesn't buck his ideas up then he'll soon be installed as the fourth horseman of the cinematic apocalypse and set to galloping alongside Fenn and co through shambolic Z-rated bottom shelfers for all eternity. The Art Of War sucks and it's nobody's fault but producer/star Snipes.

Maybe Wes greenlit it after reading the first 15 minutes' worth of script: a competent if uninspired Mission: Impossible-style op atop a Hong Kong skyscraper on Millennium Eve. Or perhaps he was suckered into believing that scattered references to the medieval Chinese military textbook/philosophy manual of the title would make this dumb film seem smart. Perhaps he even thought his `star charisma' and martial arts ability could gild any leaden project. Sadly he was wrong on all counts.

The Art Of War is a clichéd, predictably convoluted and simply dull film. After an initial burst of energy, it slows to a skin-itching crawl as Snipes' agent Shaw ducks and dives for cover in blue-tinted New York cityscapes. Packed with the kind of Cold War staples that should have been torn down with the Berlin Wall (stock bad guys, plots that dubiously threaten `global stability', interminable betrayals and counter betrayals) it chunters sternly towards an alarmingly irony-free ending.

There's one fairly original idea buried in the middle of it all - - agents hiding info files on a coded website is a fairly nifty twist - - but the rest is strictly seen-it-all-before territory. Except, that is, for the showdown that comes just as The Art Of War's two-hour running time shudders to a close (yep, that's 120 minutes you won't see again). Perhaps the single stupidest gunfight ever committed to screen, it serves one good purpose and one only: it'll send you out of the cinema with a smile on your face.

Po-faced, sub-Enemy Of The State conspiracy that starts competently but heads steadily downhill. Wesley Snipes may think he's starry enough to make any nonsense actioner successful, but on this evidence few people will agree. Roll on Blade 2...

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