The Art of War

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The old Chinese “art of war,” as explained in the action-conspiracy film “The Art of War,” is to “win by destroying your enemy from within.”

There’s no war going on in this movie; in fact, China and the United States are about to sign an historic trade agreement that would finally make 1.5 billion people available for America to sell stuff to.

No, the war is the movie vs. the audience, and the audience is losing.

Made from a template of all action movies, “The Art of War” contains no small amount of people crashing through windows, jumping from high places, blowing things up, shooting people in the head, being alive when they’re supposed to be dead, being evil when we thought they were good, using impossible and non-existent technology, and doing every other thing you’ve ever seen done in every other action movie.

If this alone — or a love for Wesley Snipes, who is a fine actor but is too anonymous and unfathomable in this film — is enough to get you into a theater, fine. But be aware that even for an action movie, this one is mediocre at best. The action is nothing we haven’t seen before, the plot twists are certainly not clever, and where most action heroes usually have at least a few witty (if lame) one-liners to toss off here and there, Snipes has none. “The Art of War” is deathly serious, Snipes’s primary co-star being even more bland than he is. There’s action, sure, but the whole thing sure is dreary.

Obviously, deep characterization is not a priority in a film like this; it’s the plot that supposedly keeps people excited. Well, here it is. On the eve of the United Nations signing the aforementioned trade agreement, the Chinese ambassador is assassinated at a dinner. Snipes’s character, a so-secret-he-doesn’t-exist undercover government operative, is for some reason suspected of the murder, but he gets away and has to find who the real culprit is — and why.

Along the way, there’s all that duplicity and lying and exploding and stuff.

The action is virtually non-stop, and some of it is genuinely exciting. But with characters who are not even interesting on a superficial, Schwarzeneggerian level, after an hour or so, you’re thinking, “Why am I watching this?” There’s no suspense, and nothing original. “The Art of War” contains neither art nor war; just a lot of loud noises and boring characters.

D+ (; R, abundant harsh profanity, abundant graphic violence, abundant female nudity, some drug use, some strong sexuality.)

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