Rated R - Running Time: 1:57 - Released 8/25/00

Before The Art Of War, I had never seen anything directed by Christian Duguay. And I must say I hope I never do again. Duguay's style is one of those all too common in Hollowwood, combining gun play (and in this case, Kung Fu fist- and foot-play) with fast editing to make it look slick and hopefully cover up the lack of intelligence in the script and characters.

The film's hopelessly convoluted and anti-Chinese story, penned by Wayne Beach (Murder at 1600) and Simon Barry, involves a proposed trade agreement between China and the U.S., which is supported by Secretary General Douglas Thomas (Donald Sutherland), but is under attack by a faction of Chinese people who believe that it will allow for the continued exploitation of the underpaid workers. At a huge dinner celebrating the impending passage of the agreement, the Chinese Ambassador is gunned down, and U.N. agent Neil Shaw (Wesley Snipes) is hired by Eleanor Hooks (Anne Archer), Thomas's right-hand lady, to find out who the killer is. But as he trails the supposed bad guys through numerous additional killings, followed closely by FBI agent Frank Capella (Maury Chaykin), he begins to uncover an ever-increasingly intricate web of danger, double crossings, and special effects.

This movie is too long by 45 minutes. It's racist. It's hard to follow. It's hard to swallow. And the romantic tension that's supposed to exist between Snipes and his female counterpart, Marie Matiko, doesn't. Matiko plays Julia Fang, an interpreter who knows something about the assassination and therefore becomes a target, and she and Shaw are supposed to be one of those clichéd movie couples who are unwillingly thrown together and develop feelings for each other under the most adverse conditions. But Snipes and Matiko couldn't care less about each other, so we can't care much about them. Sutherland and Archer are completely out of place in this film, and Archer is laughably bad in most of her few appearances.

I notice that Snipes, who co-produced this mess, also co-produced 1998's The Big Hit, another shoot-and-kick-em-up of the same dismal ilk. Perhaps this is his kind of film. But it sure ain't mine.

Copyright 2000 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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