The Art of War (2000)

Action, Adventure, Crime
Wesley Snipes, Anne Archer, Maury Chaykin, Marie Matiko
Shaw is an operative for the United Nations' covert dirty-tricks squad, using espionage and quasi-ethical tactics to secure peace and cooperation. When a shipping container full of dead ...
Excessively noisy and overly reliant on genre clichés, The Art of War wastes its star's charisma on a ridiculous, convoluted plot and poorly edited action sequences.
  • Warner Bros. Pictures Company:
  • R Rated:
  • IMDB link IMDB:
  • 25 Aug 2000 Released:
  • 26 Dec 2000 DVD Release:
  • $29.5M Box office:

All subtitles:



Good plot and acting, but confusing presentation8/10

Most people can't differentiate between a bad film and a film they don't like. Many people didn't like this motion picture because of its liberal subtext. That doesn't make it a bad film. Most people don't realize that this was a Canadian production and that probably explains the political slant. However, as action films go, it was intelligent, high tech, stimulating, bordering on believable (seldom are action flicks actually believable), with plenty of violence. I didn't particularly agree with its `New World Order' message, but it was still a solid film.

The main criticism I have of the film is the editing. In an attempt to make the story more intriguing, it is pasted together in a convoluted way that makes it very difficult to follow. All the factions and motivations are eventually explained, but one has to pay very close attention or see the movie a few times to catch them all. The screenplay suffers from an excess of subplots, which makes following the story that much more difficult. The biggest sin committed by the producers and director was that they did not understanding their audience. This film targets action lovers, who are a visceral lot. They want to be stimulated, not confused and intrigued. They also tend to be more conservative politically (God, Guns, Guts). So naturally, the film bombed.

Wesley Snipes delivers a strong performance in the intelligent action hero role. Snipes seems to be locked in the action genre when he is really too bright for the roles he plays. He should take a lesson from Samuel L. Jackson and look for scripts that are more dramatic. Jackson still does action films (Shaft), but he picks parts portraying complex characters and scripts with strong character development, instead of straight macho testosterone parts. Snipes would have done well in some of the roles Jackson has had. Anne Archer does a fine job as the manipulative career diplomat, pulling everyone's strings behind the scenes. Donald Sutherland is a bit flaccid in this film, but his character really didn't have a lot of bite.

Overall, this film is a strong entry into a genre dominated by mindless body count. I rated it an 8/10. Those who like their action flicks to be completely believable subtract two points. Subtract another two points for those who don't like confounding story lines. For those who abhor screen violence, don't even bother.
A reasonably good, high energy action flick.6/10

In "The Art of War", Snipes plays a UN deep-cover operative whose cover is compromised. Though the film features plenty of stunts, chases, crashes, shootouts, fights, and pyrotechnics mixed with a typically convoluted spy-type plot, we've seen better of all in other films. The flick does have a female protagonist but there's little romance or sexiness in this flick which lacks the spit and polish of Bond films and seems to be begging for something more than just a lot of busy heroics and magical futuristic microelectronic snoop stuff. Ok but far from Snipes better films.
Awesome guilty pleasure!7/10

Wesley Snipes has always been trusty in the action genre. He has great charisma and looks totally cool when kicking the crap out of the bad guys. Ever since his breakthrough role in "Passenger 57." There are many great moments of action in "The Art of War." Sure, the plot is far from compelling, but the energy and fast pace keeps it fueled.


"The Art of War" is not a work of art, but it's a great popcorn flick and one that won't put you to sleep! I just wish they could've done something about the cliches. I'm not going to give anything away, so I'll just say, "Why is it in these movies the characters never seem to know who their limo driver is?" It's an overused cliche and a cheap surprise.


My score: 7 (out of 10)
It wasn't THAT bad…7/10

I've read some seriously negative reviews of The Art of War. There are IMDb users out there who hated this movie to no end, which leads me to wonder why I rented it in the first place, having read many of these reviews already, and why it was seen as so much worse than anything Wesley Snipes has done up to this point. Snipes has made some good movies, and some bad ones, just like almost every actor out there (although there are certainly some that only make good ones and some that only make bad ones, but Snipes seems to have about an equal amount of each, maybe leaning slightly in favor of the bad), and I don't really think The Art of War is any different. It's a typical action film in which he plays virtually the exact same character that he played in Rising Sun, except here he's been framed as an assassin and, as is always the case with movies in which the good guy has been framed for some crime, he has to set out to prove his innocence with no help from the police and without knowing who he can trust.

(spoilers) Michael Biehn stars as Robert Bly, Neil Shaw's (Snipes) ill-fated partner. Biehn has been largely missing in action (pun intended) for several years, his only notable appearances since the spectacular Terminator (and since being deleted from Terminator 2) being an excellent role in The Rock and his thoroughly enjoyable performances in movies like The Abyss, Aliens, and Navy SEALS. Given this iconology, it's strange to consider the role that he was given in The Art of War. Naturally, actors are given roles that go against their iconography all the time (a recent example would be Tom Hanks in The Road to Perdition), but there is generally a reason for that or at least something about that actor's personality or charisma that fits with the role that they are given. In The Art of War, there is little reason to have Biehn play the role that he plays other than to cover up the plot twist near the end of the film. That's just weak writing.

Like I said above, I enjoyed The Art of War more than many other reviewers seemed to. The introduction of the conflict is particularly impressive. The chase through the building early in the film is not only exciting, but thoroughly convincing so that you really don't guess what's really happening. Regardless of how the mystery is created (whether or not it be because of the strange role given to Michael Biehn), consider how well the frame was set up. Shaw is running through this building chasing the bad guy, he hears his partner shot twice on the radio, so just as he bursts into the street which is crowded with police, his adrenaline is pumping and his face is contorted with the grief of knowing that his partner has just been killed. It's easy to understand that the police could have mistaken his expression for grief at having been caught trying to escape the scene of the crime that they think he has just committed.

I might like to take this opportunity to point out that while I certainly found The Art of War to be at least a mildly entertaining action film, I did not find it to be any more than that. It is most certainly a vehicle for some good Wesley Snipes action, but is there really anything wrong with that? I personally enjoy watching Steven Seagal movies and Van Damme movies, just because they're entertaining and, quite often, more amusing than anything else. Given that, I would not be being fair if I condemned The Art of War for not having much intellectual content to speak of.


I am normally not one to forgive stupidity in the movies, but the thing that allows me to forgive the cheesy action in The Art of War (as an example of how seriously the movie takes itself, consider the extensive kung-fu fighting scene that takes place during the New Year celebration early in the film, to the grand enjoyment of everyone in attendance, who are all lucky enough to see it close up on the big screen) is that it doesn't pretend to be anything else. Unlike a Bruckheimer film, it does not throw in all of the necessary ingredients to attract every kind of audience that can be attracted to an audience, which is an unfortunately prevalent tactic that results in a lot of movies that could have been great but instead come out as muddy messes. The Art of War is a straight up action film, and whether you loved it or hated it or anything in between, you have to respect it for allowing itself to be seen as such in a society that more and more seems to condemn purity in the movies.
Underrated Conspiracy Thriller7/10
Snipes puts in a fine performance as Neil Shaw, a united nations defence agent who is wanted for the assassination of the Chinese U.N. ambassador at a time where U.S. and Chinese relations are already strained.

Snipes teams up with a beautiful U.N. translator (Marie Matiko) in a search for the truth behind the conspiracy that is engulfing the duo. The Art of War delivers action, thrills and good plot twists and overall is a satisfying thriller. However it is not without some minor flaws, the story although complex and interesting is somewhat dis-jointed in its delivery and the ending lacks impact, even if it does ring true to the plot line.

All in all 'The Art of War' is a good, yet less than perfect action thriller, that will certainly satisfy Snipes fans.

7/10