Who's in It:
Jet Li, Jason Statham, John Lone, Devon Aoki
The Basics: Jet Li is a seemingly superhuman assassin working both sides of war between a San Francisco triad and some equally bloodthirsty Yakuza. And because Li also killed permanent-three-day-stubble-having FBI guy Jason Statham's partner, Statham is out for personal revenge, hurling himself and his fellow agents into almost certain death in the middle of the gang war. There's also something going on about a pair of solid-gold statues of horses that everyone wants, which, if you think about it, makes it something like Dorothy and the Wicked Witch of the West battling it out for those ruby slippers in The Wizard of Oz.
What's the Deal? When you don't bother to write an interesting story and you rely on unimaginative car chases and martial-arts face-kickery, how do you salvage your movie? With lot of guns, knives and swords, that's how. Even with Jet Li on board here, you don't get to see a ton of really great mano a mano. It's mostly just people shooting each other in the face. There's a ton of that, actually. And that's, you know, fine and all, but it's not what you're led to believe is going to go down. You'll be disappointed in the film but satisfied, more or less, by the sheer volume of bloodshed.
Who Turns Out to Be the Most Entertaining Bad Person: Supermodel Devon Aoki, continuing her low-grade acting career here as a scissor-throwing daughter of a Yakuza boss you don't want to cross. In her best scene, she lays it down blade-and-gun-style with two guys who don't want to be bothered to go get her a salad. Chef. No blue cheese. Dressing on the side.
Who Makes You Sad for His Career: John Lone, the once-acclaimed star of Bertolucci's The Last Emperor, is just another mob boss in this movie, aging weirdly and choking out dialogue like, "Revenge is a must!"
Random Questions I Had While Watching It:
1. Does Jason Statham look forward to the end of a shoot so he can finally become clean-shaven?
2. How do you film a high-speed car chase in San Francisco without getting a lot of self-righteous bicycle activists in your face?
3. When will action movie directors stop doing that thing where they show you a million fast flash-cuts of stuff that are simply meant to evoke anger or pain? This one was like, "Look, a burning house! A singed doll! Broken windows! A sneaker!"
4. Why am I having to wait almost an hour for someone to say, "Get ready for war."