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THE ART OF WAR ($25) is a slick political thriller, with an action movie bent that throws a nod to the cinematic exploits of James Bond. Wesley Snipes stars in THE ART OF WAR as Neil Shaw, a spy working covert operations for the United Nations. Officially, the UN doesn't have a spy network, but these are interesting times, so UN Secretary General Douglas Thomas (Donald Sutherland) willingly turns a blind eye to whatever operations that his advisor Eleanor Hooks (Anne Archer) deems necessary to keep the peace. However, during an important UN initiative devised by Thomas to open up China to foreign trade, the Chinese ambassador is assassinated. Shaw witnesses the assassination and is lead on a labyrinthine chase through several buildings by the fleeing assailant. Unfortunately, Shaw loses sight of the assassin inside one building, which results in the death of his partner Bly (Michael Biehn). As he makes his way out of the building, Shaw finds himself in the waiting arms of the police, who immediately assume that he is the assassin. With no official standing within the UN, or any American government agency, Shaw finds himself pretty much on his own, except for the help of Julia Fang (Marie Matiko), the only eyewitness who saw the real assassin. After a daring escape, Shaw sets out to find the assassin who left him holding the bag. THE ART OF WAR provides genre fans with plenty of action, chases, gunfire, explosions and solid martial arts fighting. The story is a bit far fetched and it is kind of easy to guess at the film's ending, but THE ART OF WAR does provide enough entertainment value to compensate for its deficiencies. The cast of THE ART OF WAR also includes Maury Chaykin, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, James Hong and Liliana Komorowska.

Warner Home Video has done another absolutely first rate job with the DVD presentation of THE ART OF WAR. THE ART OF WAR is properly framed at 2.35:1 and the DVD features the anamorphic enhancement for playback on 16:9 displays. Like the transfer of any big budget new movie, the DVD delivers an image that is super sharp and beautifully detailed. Colors are rich and fully saturated, while the flesh tones maintain a completely natural balance. Strongly rendered primary colors stand out, yet there are no signs of distortion or bleeding. Blacks are pure, plus the image boasts excellent contrast and shadow detail, which shows off the film's terrific nighttime cinematography. Digital compression artifacts are completely tamed by solid authoring.

THE ART OF WAR features a rock 'em, sock 'em action mix that makes excellent use of the discrete abilities of the Dolby Digital 5.1 channel format. Sound effects are aggressively deployed in the forward soundstage, as well as in the split surround channels. The viewer is made to feel enveloped in a blanket of sound that is potent from end to end of the movie. Dialogue reproduction is clean and never buried under that blanket of sound that I just mentioned. The bass channel is very strong, providing all of the percussive reinforcement that the track requires. Normand Corbeil's musical score is nicely recorded and well mixed, maintaining its fidelity and sonic integrity throughout. Subtitles are provided on the DVD in English. Music enhances the basic interactive menus, which allow access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a couple of extras. A theatrical for THE ART OF WAR is on boards, as well as trailers for other Morgan Creek titles. Cast and crew biographies fill out the extras.

THE ART OF WAR is a slickly made action thriller that works really well on DVD, thanks to Warner's excellent presentation. If you need an action fix that will also put your home theater system to work, you can't go wrong by checking out this DVD.


The Art of War


DVD reviews are Copyright 2001 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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