The Art of War Review

Apr 25, 2001 | 8:56am EDT

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.

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