UN Sniper
Art of War
Review by Ross Anthony

Careful disciplined direction watches over this piece from it's purposely restrained opening action sequence through the thunderous middle to a slightly less thunderous ending. Not flawless, but I liked it!

In a discussion after the flick, a less-than-satisfied viewer pointed out many imperfections and Art of Warimplausibilities. His criticisms were solid, but apparently I bought into the film, glossed over eyes and all, because I had a great time enjoying the slick (bigger than real) action, quiet brooding Snipes and unfolding twists on the big screen.

Wesley is a man of little words, he walks softly and carries a big stick ... and jumps 30 feet to the concrete way too often for a normal set of legs. But if you don't mind that kind of action, you'll have fun. I did.

You might also appreciate the lack of silly action-tough-guy talk, though there is just a shade too much contrived "hostage attitude" dialogue for my liking. But the film's biggest problems lie in the third act: a "Batman" style "I did it this way because" speech by top villain to the benevolent captive seems way too foolish for a film that does a decent job of trying to be smart, and aside from action-liberties, avoids insults to the intelligence.

Hitting the screens half a year too late, the film opens with Chinese New Year 2000. A UN trade agreement awaits signing while millions of dollars in Chinese commerce wades in the balance. With so much at stake, you can bet some high ranking officials had better watch their steps and issues. Snipes is an undercover operative for the Canadian UN representative's secretary. He uses highly risky blackmail tactics to sway the vote, but there are plenty of other players willing to kill to sway it back.

Action and juicy direction overplay this plot which is just an excuse for intrigue, fight scenes, and mystery. In fact, the ending resolutions pay very little attention to both the initial source Art of Warof the conflict and a strikingly real sequence involving a shipment of slain refuges. The film's plot is almost incidental. All we care about are the players and how the game is played: the art of this little war. Nonetheless, it's compelling at every turn.

I particularly enjoyed Snipes' earlier jump into a Hong Kong street laced with balloons and lamps; Maury Chaykin as Lt. Cappella, and our hero's visualizations of vicious acts upon entering the scene of a crime.

Had this film cared to give the trade/refugee situation the same excellent attention it gave to the action, it may have been one of my favorite films all summer.

  • Art of War. Copyright © 2000. Rated R.
  • Starring Anne Archer, Wesley Snipes, Maury Chaykin, Marie Matiko, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Michael Biehn, Donald Sutherland.
  • Directed by Christian Duguay.
  • Written by Wayne Beach and Simon Davis Barry.
  • Produced by Nicolas Clermont, Richard Lalonde at Filmline/Morgan Creek/Granchise/Amen Ra distributed by Warner Bros.


Copyright © 2000. Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit: RossAnthony.com

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Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 08:21:36 PDT