Every Sherlock Holmes must have his Professor Moriarty. Every cop on a mission must have a dead partner to be avenged. And if the cop is Jason Statham (of “Transporter” and “Crank”) and the killer is Jet Li (of “Unleashed” and “Hero”), one expects an action film of the highest level.
The biggest problem with the resulting movie, “War,” is that my local cinema put a preview for “Shoot ‘Em Up” in front of it. Seeing Clive Owen doing exactly the sort of comic-book-level action sequences that Jason Statham has built a career on, versus an over-emoting adversary like Paul Giamatti, the exact opposite of what Jet Li had built his career on, just sets “War” up for comparison. And it doesn’t fare well.
Instead of going over the top, “War” plays it straight. The plot is a pair of old ones, combined with a new coat of paint and a twist that almost makes it M. Night Shamalyn action picture. A lone stranger (Li) starts pitting two crime families against one another. An F.B.I. man (Statham) tries to make sense of it all while fanatically pursuing his partner’s killer and cleaning up every crime scene by first shooting any leftover mob guys.
“War” is an action movie for fans of the genre. It does its job, but perhaps doesn’t live up to the potential one would expect from its two stars.
What great-grandfather Sherlock would have said: