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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround EX
  Subtitles
    English
  Extras
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Cast/crew biographies
  • Featurette - on the set.
  • Interviews

The Art of War

Roadshow Entertainment/Roadshow Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 112 mins . MA15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Wesley Snipes is action man. A favourite of mine is 'Blade' - a close to perfect transfer and a sharp actioner which showcases his personality and martial arts skills. His other action films have been less than impressive ('Money Train', 'Murder at 1600', 'Passenger 57'). This movie is thankfully much closer to 'Blade' in terms quality than I had expected. It did not do as well as expected in the theatres amid some very strong competition. The title is based on the ancient book by philosopher Sun Tzu who describes the principles of warfare as he saw it - these principles translate well for modern warfare and espionage.

Wesley Snipes is a covert UN operative who works to 'accelerate' official UN policy. Anne Archer is his immediate superior, with Michael Biehn as a fellow operative. The UN is instrumental in brokering a trade agreement between the US and China. The Chinese ambassador is assassinated and Snipes is embroiled in the scandal. The plot has many surprise twists so it would be improper to go on.

While there are plenty of action and fight scenes, there is also a lot of chemistry between the three principles; Snipes, translater Marie Matiko and veteran FBI agent Mauray Chaikin. Matiko is particularly good in the main female role with that 'spunky chick' thing down pat.

The director is French-Canadian cinematographer Christian Duguay, who seems to be following the career path of many cinematographer-cum-directors. The camera work is certainly inventive although some cineastes may disagree. Oliver Stone part produces.

Duguay's directorial style is less impressive with obvious cues from John Woo and others. The basic script has some problems with plausibility and some familiar plot devices but be that as it may, they don't greatly spoil what is a tightly paced and slick thriller. I was amazed that the director decided to use such artistic flair in depicting Snipes' thought processes and concluding with such a strange ending. Is it happy? Perhaps not sad but maybe a bit melancholic?

  Video
Contract

Village Roadshow, they came on the scene with some pretty plain and bad discs. You know which ones - there were bullet point lists, they were that bad. Now they are simply breathtaking. This mirrors other Village discs - an anamorphic picture that is close to flawless. It's exceedingly clear, colourful, smooth and free from compression artifacts. The start sequence is a good indication of the visual quality of the rest of the film. It's at a nightclub filled with colourful Chinese decorations so you get excellent dark details with bright, saturated patches of colour. The director's visual style demands an excellent transfer and this disc presents everything faithfully from the differing camera speeds to the different film stock to the wide camera angles and the closeups.

The only flaws I could detect were extremely minor - some very slight edge enhancement where black borders a light background; for example Wesley Snipes against a white building; inconsequential otherwise.

"Knowing the enemy enables you to take the offensive, knowing yourself enables you to stand on the defensive."

  Audio
Contract

Excellent single Dolby 5.1 EX 448k/s track. There's nothing lesser included and you need nothing more. The box says there's a Dolby 2.0 track but there's none I assure you. I'm not aware of any other EX discs on the Australian market except for 'Austin Powers 2' and 'Hollow Man'. The native audio is 5.1 EX so there's a straight translation from master to DVD.

There's nothing all that much to say about the front channels and the LFE. Excellent fidelity, clear vocals (even with the accents and the Mandarin dialect) and low low bass. There's also a lot of LFE and general effect directionality in the front channels. Very seamless with perfect integration of bass, vocals and trebles simultaneously. There are a number of scenes where glass breaks so your tweets will get a workout.

The rear channels deserve some explanation. A true Dolby EX system works by deriving a centre rear channel from the left and right rears - it then feeds it to an amp and centre channel.

A THX Surround 7.1 system adds dual centre channels with the need for an extra two amps and two centre speakers.

A Virtual EX system can add a virtual centre by using a 'phantom' rear centre without the need for extra amps or speakers.

A normal Dolby 5.1 system just uses the rear left/right and is none the wiser.

I use a Virtual EX system and there is a notable increase in directionality in the rear channels, especially in the Z-axis. You can expect a 5.1 system to have excellent X-Y panning (ie. across the room) however this disc seems to have cues that extend from floor to ceiling. I do not have ceiling speakers by the way, this disk seems to make me believe I have. This is notable in the extensive rain and thunderstorm sequences.

Whether you have a 5.1 or 7.1 system, the audio here will please. It has everything you could possibly want. Nothing seems too forced yet when the film calls for bass or effects swings, it is there, seamless and intended.

Needless to say, perfect sync'ing of frame to audio. The score is typical of this genre yet it doesn't scream out like something from Hans Zimmer.

  Extras
Contract

Starts with Dolby 'Canyon'. Some of you might want Roadshow to stop with that. At least it's not 'City'. Sets the right tone for the rest of the movie though...

Minimal but of high standard - firstly the menu is a slick animated job ending in still frames. Menu music is all crisp 448k/s.

The trailer is an anamorphic clip of the same quality as the feature film with 448k/s Dolby 5.1 and some extensive, almost obnoxious use of bass.

There is an 'on the set' feature which is done 'fly on the wall' style. The stars are captured between takes and either mug for the camera or ignore it. There is no voiceover explanation so you really do get to see what goes 'on the set'. The stunts and martial arts are mainly featured with the car crashes and sundry explosions being the most satisfying. Surprisingly good quality video and stereo audio. It runs for about 13 minutes.

There are also biographies and interviews with the actors. English subtitles are included.

The only thing I could ask for would be a director's commentary - this guy has some explaining to do.

  Overall  
Contract

Hmmm... technically this disc is as good as it gets. This movie sits somewhere between Wesley Snipes more mediocre work and 'Blade'. Some people really don't like it and place it as a nobrain actioner. In that case you should rent it first. Snipes has done another movie where an Asian connection is involved. Try 'Rising Sun' with Snipes and Sean Connery or 'The Corrupter' with Chow Yun Fat. Snipes has also been the 'lone man' before in 'US Marshalls'. Play spot the plot device.


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      And I quote...
    "Attack is the secret of defense; Defense is the planning of an attack."
    - Tony Lai
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Rom:
          Pioneer 105(s)
    • MPEG Card:
          Geforce2 32MB AGP
    • Projector:
          Panasonic 1024x768 LCD Projector
    • Decoder:
          Sony TA-E9000ES
    • Amplifier:
          Parasound HCA-1206THX
    • Speakers:
          Mission 763
    • Centre Speaker:
          Mission 75c
    • Surrounds:
          Mission 760
    • Subwoofer:
          Mission 75as
    • Audio Cables:
          rca coaxial SPDIF
    • Video Cables:
          VGA connector
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