a critiQal film review The Art of War II: Betrayal (2008)

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Plot: Ex-covert spy Niles Shaw (Snipes) now works as a Hollywood consultant. Suddenly, his martial arts mentor is murdered, and he finds himself deep in a conspiracy to assassinate several powerful senators. Once again, it's going to take all of his training to bring the real culprits to justice.

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596 words (Est. Reading Time 2m 58s)

After watching again, I felt decently prepared to jump into the straight-to-video sequel, The Art Of War II: Betrayal – but I wasn’t expecting much. With Wesley’s recent tax evasion troubles, I figured this sequel was nothing more than a way for him to earn some much needed cash. Cashing in on the name of a film he’d already done was just a bonus.

So would a sequel be able to improve on the decent yet formulaic first film, or would this film be as see-through as expected?

Snipes is back as Niles Shaw, but about the only thing recognizable is the name. Gone is the suave super spy that was a highlight of the first film. This time around, Niles is a Tai-Chi practicing good guy who has traded in his government past for the poistion of technical advisor to films. It never quite seems right for the character, and the viewer will probably get a little bored waiting for the action to start.

Lochlyn Munro, thanks to his many appearances in bit roles on TV (“Charmed”, “CSI”, “Smallville”, etc.), is a rather familiar face for viewers, although they may not be able to place him immediately. While his acting isn’t top notch, it’s decent enough not to be laughable for at least most of the film.

The storyline is decent, if pretty straightforward. Retired Shaw is forced back into action when people near to him are threatened, and he has to hunt them down. This would have been even better if it hadn’t already been done so recently (and so much better) in , but since Art of War II did go straight to video, one can’t expect too much originality.

Even though the plot is rather unoriginal, the story does toss in enough twists and turns to make the movie enjoyable enough for a rental. Watching Snipes basically sleepwalk his way through the film isn’t exactly going to get audiences raving, but he still manages to be entertaining in the role without apparently very much effort.

Sadly, however, the directing by Josef Rusnak leaves a lot to be desired. Right from the get-go, Rusnak tosses in bizarre camera shots that contribute nothing to the film: during the opening credit sequence, Snipes is seen practicing his Tai Chi (or whatever, they don’t actually say what it is) as the camera switches back and forth from normal to negative images randomly – and the overall effect is nothing but annoyance.

As the film progresses, the bizarre camera effects get worse, from a slow-motion blurred fight sequence to flashbacks galore (among other ill-advised effects), the viewer will find themselves irritated that the director keeps messing with the film. While a catchy – and oft-repeated – soundtrack riff helps keep the viewer tuned in, the camera effects do their best to keep the viewer at a distance. The film would have benefitted greatly without the extra effects, and the director comes off more as a first-timer experimenting than any sort of experienced ‘hand behind the wheel’, so to speak.

While the director does his best to keep the viewer pre-occupied with totally unneccessary effects and the storyline was done much better recently in , The Art Of War II: Betrayal does have enough twists and turns to make it semi-decent anyway.

While The Art Of War II isn’t something to put at the top of your rental list, it’s actually a lot better than I was expecting, with an actually decent backbone to it. It’s just too bad the many distractions will keep you from enjoying it that much.

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