The war of the title is a grumpy gangland fracas between Chinese and Japanese mobsters on the streets of San Francisco. FBI agent Jack Crawford (Jason Staham) is caught in the middle, but he doesn't care: he's obsessed with tracking down Rogue (Jet Li), a mysterious assassin who killed Crawford's partner. He also killed his partner's wife, his partner's kids and quite possibly his partner's hamster. Then he set their house on fire, just to make sure.
It's hard not to feel a spot of affection for Jason Staham. Like a cottage industry, he keeps churning out these cheap, boneheaded action flicks, and if you didn't enjoy the last one, there'll be another one along in a minute. As a rule they're unpretentious, knowingly silly and short, all good qualities for lowbrow action. Occasionally, as happened in Crank, they transcend the form altogether and achieve the status of trash masterpiece. Statham himself has a surprisingly sweet screen presence: no matter how thuggish the role, he's always mysteriously cuddly. So it's disappointing to report that War is a bit rubbish even by his modest standards.
"BOMB DOGS! HOOKERS!"
Pitting Statham against Jet Li - western brawn versus eastern ballet - is a great idea in principle (and fans of the pair should check out The One for undemanding chopsockey thrills), but hero and villain rarely run into each other in this dour tale. For all the bloodletting, this is more of a gangster procedural than a martial arts slugfest, the action sequences are a mush of Ritalin-fuelled editing and there is little of the refreshing silliness that characterises Statham's best stuff. Despite a few compensations - Bomb dogs! Hookers! - and a doozy of a plot twist, you'll spend most of War with Edwin Starr stuck in your head. All together now: "War! Hurgh! What is it it good for?"
War is out in the UK on 28th Sept 2007.