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Art of War II: Betrayal, The

Sony Pictures // R // August 12, 2008
List Price: $24.96 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by David Walker | posted August 7, 2008 | E-mail the Author
The Film:
Somewhere, someone was sitting around thinking, "What Wesley Snipes' movies should there be a sequel to? Is there a Wesley Snipes' movie with so many unanswered questions at the end that it demands being revisited? In making a sequel to a Wesley Snipes' movie should we go with one of his awesome direct-to-video titles, or one of his even more awesome theatrical releases?" And even though this person--we'll call him "Bootsy"--asked these questions to many people, the answers were always the same: "none," "no," and "who cares, most of his movies suck anyway?" But that didn't stop "Bootsy," and when all was said and done, the decision was made to make The Art of War II: Betrayal, a bad follow-up to a bad movie that needed no follow-up.

Snipes returns as former super agent Neil Shaw. When we last saw Shaw in the original Art of War he was...oh hell...does anyone really remember that piece of crap? Let's just leave it at "Snipes returns as former super agent Neil Shaw." Retired and living under the radar so as not to call attention to himself, Shaw resurfaces when his childhood mentor--a cross-dressing martial arts expert--is killed. For reasons that are never adequately explained, the murder has something to do with flushing Shaw out of hiding so that he can somehow get involved with crooked politicians, assassinations and shady arms deals. At least that's what the convoluted story seems to be about, but to be totally honest, the whole thing is difficult to follow. There is no real story here, just a series of scenes strung together in a feeble attempt to pass for a real plot that requires Snipes to scowl, kick ass, and have the bodies to pile up; all of which happens with a bit too much infrequency for the film's own good. (That's a nice way of say this film is exceptionally boring with bad pacing.)

The original Art of War was, if memory serves me correctly, a terrible film. I can't remember a thing about it, other than the distinct notion that it sucked, and that I never--and I do mean never ever--wanted to see it again. This of course meant that the moment I found out there was a sequel, I had to see it. Without recalling anything about Art of War, and remaining true to my pledge to never ever watch it again, it is difficult to compare it to The Art of War II: Betrayal. But since AOW2 sucks, I suppose that's enough of a comparison.

Directed by Josef Rusnak, AOW2 has so many things wrong with it that it is difficult to know exactly where to start. But since Rusnak is the director, we might as well start with his poor attempt at crafting a visually stylish film that falls victim to bad action sequences, poor cinematography and I-can't-believe-how-bad-it-is editing. And all of these flaws might be forgivable if the script were decent. But the script is not decent. The script, in fact, is something beyond crap. It is shit. Co-writers Jason Bourque and Keith Shaw have written something truly worth ignoring--a jumbled mess that tries to pass itself off as some sort of political action thriller that falls woefully short of the action or the thrills. And if you are stupid enough to watch this film (which you can charge me guilty of), then the one saving grace is that as bad as the script is, it is equally forgettable.

Of all the problems with The Art of War II: Betrayal, none is worse or more unforgivable than the fact that the action sequences aren't any good. You can take the worst movies with Don "the Dragon" Wilson or Billy Blanks, and as long as they have some marginal action sequences, you can overlook a lot in the bad film making department. But you can't do that with AOW2, because even the fight scenes and action sequences are poorly executed. And you know that when you can look at any movie and say that it is worse than a Don "the Dragon" Wilson flick, you've got a real stinker on your hands.

The Art of War II: Betrayal is presented 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The image transfer of the film appears to be good in that there are no visible artifacts or pixilation, but the picture itself suffers from scenes that are poorly lit and there are times where what can only be describe as "stylish flashbacks" look just plain bad.

The Art of War II: Betrayal is presented in 5.1 Dolby Digital in English, with optional language tracks in Spanish, Portuguese, French and Thai--none of which could possible make the movie more entertaining. The audio transfer is within acceptable ranges, with decent levels throughout and a solid mix.

Bonus Material:
A selection of alternative versions of several fight scenes are in it as far as bonus features. If you think the fight sequences included in the movie are not worth watching, you'll really be unimpressed with the alternate versions (although they are good for an unintentional laugh or two).

Final Thoughts:
I know Wesley Snipes is having trouble with the law, and we all want to do our most to support him, but hey...if he's gonna make crappy movies like AOW2, maybe he should be in jail.

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]
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