More like the ART OF CRAP!!! From the “Mission: Impossible” school comes yet another spy thriller with a plot you can barely comprehend or care about. This one is about Shaw (Wesley Snipes), a secret super-agent working for the United Nations. We meet him as he steals secrets from and about a Chinese general with which to blackmail him at a lavish Chinese New Year celebration hosted by Chinese billionaire David Chan (Cary Hiroyuki Tagawa). Six months later, Shaw is working security at a banquet hosted by Chan for Chinese Ambassador Wu (James Hong). Wu is promptly assassinated, and Shaw is promptly framed for it. His only proof of innocence is Julia (Marie Matiko), an interpreter who saw Shaw chase the real killer. Shaw now has to find out whether he was set up by Hong Kong triads, Chan, or maybe someone else. The fate of a key foreign trade deal hangs in the balance. By the time of the third act, when all of the pieces of the puzzle are spelled out for you, and the true villains recite passages from Sun Tzu’s 2000-year-old book, “The Art of War”, you will realize how truly ridiculous this movie really is.
Man, where do I start? The dialogue, pacing, and characterization all suck. The plot is so bloated that there is little time left to develop anyone’s part, including Snipes’. The direction, by Christian Duguay (best known for CBS’ “Joan of Arc” miniseries, “Screamers”, and “Scanners II” and “III”), is competence with pretensions of style. Snipes who produced, is good, but limited in a part with minimal dialogue. Now, I’ve always liked Snipes. I can appreciate his desire to be the black James Bond. That doesn’t mean that his ultimate nemesis had to fulfill every hoary cliche of a James Bond villain. This person spends what would be an extraordinary amount of time setting up this complicated plan and through much of the film holds nearly all of the cards. Do they take proper advantage of this? NO! As expected, Shaw gets the opportunities he needs to foil the plot while his enemies are screwing around.
Maybe it’s time to give this sort of spy flick a rest. Despite the demise of America’s older enemies, Hollywood screenwriters keep trying to update the same formula with minimal success. The best they can come up with are intricate schemes by double-crossing agents from within the same organization, a la the “Mission: Impossible” movies. Until these writers can come up with a new idea or make the audience give a s**t about this one, they should probably stick to churning out knock-offs to “American Pie”, “The Blair Witch Project” or whatever else studio bosses will currently point at and say, “Give me one of those.”