A masochist is defined as someone who derives pleasure from pain, suffering or humiliation. And while I have never considered myself to be a masochist--having never enjoyed pain, suffering or humiliation--I'm now beginning to realize that in fact I do have certain masochistic tendencies. That is the only explanation I can come up with for my decision to watch Art of War III: Retribution--a decision I made of my own free will. You see, only a person who enjoys pain and suffering would decide to watch the third film in a series that he absolutely hated.
For those of you lucky/smart enough to have skipped Art of War and Art of War II: Betrayal, you missed out on a pair of abysmal films starring Wesley Snipes as Neil Shaw, a super assassin employed by the United Nations. Snipes is missing from AOW3, and has been replaced by Treach, the rapper-turned-direct-to-video-actor best known as the frontman for Naughty by Nature. Treach has inherited the role of Neil Shaw in much the same way fellow rapper Sticky Fingaz inherited Snipes role as vampire hunter Blade--the key difference being that the Blade television series is much better than this third Art of War fiasco.
Shaw is sent along with his team of surprising inept and prone to whining team of bungling agents to South Korea, where it seems there is going to be a big UN summit about the unification of North and South Korea. The problem is that the North Koreans are planning to purchase a nuclear bomb from the Russians, and detonate it at the summit. Shaw and his team are sent in to find out what is going on, only to get caught up in a game duplicitous stupidity and hackneyed clichés. When the arms deal goes bad and a bunch of people end up dead, Shaw flees with Korean hotbabe Sun Yi (Sung Hi Lee), who knows more than she is letting on. Shaw plans to use Sun Yi as a tool to find out what's really going on with the arms deal, not to mention as a temporary home for his trouser snake. Racing around South Korea with the bad guys in hot pursuit, Shaw, his idiot partner Jason (Warren Derosa) and Sun Yi do their best to not come across like a trio of complete morons. This includes parking the customized sports car they've stolen inconspicuously in front of a whorehouse. By the time the final plot twist reveals itself in nothing less than the completely predictable way it's been threatening to from the very start, Art of War III has spiraled out of control into a laughable mess of incompetent filmmaking and a total waste of time.
Art of War III: Retribution is one of those rare films that is almost completely devoid of anything that could even remotely resemble entertainment. The action sequences are maudlin and pedestrian at best, until you get to the final shootout, which is literally one of the funniest things you'll ever see. Imagine a gun fight from one of the Naked Gun movies, only done completely serious, and you'll just be scratching the surface. But this unintentional comedic respite is not a reason to watch this movie, which is woefully short on reasons to watch. Treach gives a performance more stiff than a piece of wood. And speaking of stiff and wood, Playboy playmate Sung Hi Lee keeps her clothes on throughout the movie, which is just one more reason to find flaw with this garbage. Any junk film that fails to deliver the gratuitous nudity that should be a requirement when a Playboy playmate is gracing the screen, is a film not worth watching in any capacity.
Directed by Gerry Liveley and written by Joe Halpin, AOW3 is simply a terrible movie. It would be easy to at first blame the cast, who collectively deliver a performance of such epically talent deficient proportions it almost boggles the mind; but then you must remember that someone wrote and directed this crap. Perhaps as individuals Lively and Halpin are your run of the mill hacks with little to no talent to call their own. But working together they have created a volatile mix of cinematic trash that is consistently bad from start to finish, culminating in a movie that is pure garbage.
Art of War III: Retribution is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen. The picture quality is decent in that the movie is in focus and the master source is clean. But beyond that, the picture is flat with generic lighting that is most often found in television productions.
Art of War III: Retribution is presented in English in 5.1 Dolby Digital. There are optional dubbed tracks in Spanish (2.0), French (2.0), Japanese (5.1), Portuguese (5.1), Thai (5.1), as well as optional subtitles in English, Spanish, French, Japanese, Portuguese, Chinese, Mandarin, Korean, Thai and Persian. And still, with all these languages, the movie has nothing of interest to say.
Nothing other than a collection trailers for movies that all look to be better than Art of War III: Retribution, which isn't saying much, because most look like crap.
You're kidding right? This movie is total shit.
David Walker is the creator of BadAzz MoFo, a nationally published film critic, and the Writer/Director of Black Santa's Revenge with Ken Foree now on DVD [Buy it now]