Neil Shaw is framed for the murder of congressional hopefuls and must finds a way to clear his name and seek vengeance against the bad guys
Art of War II: Betrayal plays out like a cheap man’s Bourne movie. Wesley Snipes plays Neil Shaw, a former special ops agent. He has been in hiding since the 2000 film, and is lured out when his mentor “Mother” is found dead. While at the funeral, he learns his mentor has a daughter he never knew existed. From this point on, Shaw is thrown into a whirlwind of betrayal and murder.
Now, this film expects you to turn your mind off from the start. Shaw has been in hiding, all his enemies believe him to be dead, and he is living under the alias “Stone”. His idea of laying low involves working as an advisor on a war movie. The main actor in this fictional war movie is also running for congress. Since “Stone” used to have “some kind of mysterious ties to a government agency”, the actor asks him to look into someone who is blackmailing him.
The more I think about Neil Shaw in this film, the more I realize that he is a pretty stupid dude. Sure, he can kick some ass, but when it comes to covering his own, he is really ignorant. There is even a point in the film where he has to be told his cell phone can be traced. I guess this just isn’t a cheap man’s Bourne movie, but also a dumb man’s Bourne.
To make the package worse, director Josef Rusnak can’t lick the boots of Paul Greengrass or even Doug Liman. Rusnak prefers to play with his Adobe After Effects program a little too much. He likes to take what could be a solid choreographed fight scene and then slow it down, speed it up, change the colors and distort the picture. It is really hard to follow the action because the director likes to show off way too much. The problem is, this showing off is just horribly done. I’ll also add that Rusnak loves flashbacks, and also can’t shoot them without using some kind of special effect or filter.
The dialogue is horrendous. Here are two examples: (1) Well, it’s what you would expect from a super agent, cross-dressing, martial arts instructor. (2) Mother had a lot of secrets. I was one of them. Mother was my father. I will admit these few lines were kind of funny but this script is full of eye-rolling, mind-numbing dialogue. Add the dialogue to the director’s lack of skills, and you get a movie that can’t even be saved by a solid espionage plot.
The plot involves a sect of the Homeland Defense who is going rogue and planning the murders of various congressional hopefuls. They somehow know Shaw is still alive and set him up to take the fall. It is up to Shaw and his colleagues to unravel the mysteries, drive the rogue agents into the open, and take them out, thereby ending the threat. The movie even has an interesting end where Shaw doesn’t live happily ever after and leaves the film more damaged than he entered it. It is just too bad the writers of such an interesting story weren’t skilled enough to add realistic dialogue or smooth transitions to the script.
I mentioned the end of the film is interesting. Don’t confuse that with the final fight against the big bad guy. That battle was so ridiculous that I couldn’t believe it made it to the screen. I’ll just say Neil Shaw, with a gun, battles a guy with a handheld rocket launcher type weapon. It takes place on the top floor of a skyscraper and the way Shaw dispatches his enemy is ludicrous. This director was interested in making a spectacle but he couldn’t do what was needed to make this an entertaining watch – shoot a good simple, clean movie with good fight choreography.
As it is, we have a jumbled mess of a movie adding to the continued downward spiral of the once entertaining Wesley Snipes.
Other than previews for other films (including the wonderfully cheesy looking Zombie Strippers), the only extra feature is Alternate Fight Scenes. This allows you to watch the fight scenes from the movie without actually having to follow, you know, the plot.