The Art of War

Movie review by
Betsy Wallace, Common Sense Media
The Art of War Movie Poster Image
Espionage kill-fest isn't for teens.
  • R
  • 2002
  • 117 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages
Violence

Near constant fatal gun violence, otherwise martial arts fighting, people thrown into glass causing shatters and blood, strangling, car chases, and a truckload of dead Vietnamese refugees. Intense chase scenes involve characters jumping from very high pl

Sex

At a party, a young teen girl appears to give a North Korean diplomat oral sex under the table. We see topless women at an underground club. The car Shaw steals has a picture of a naked woman dangling from the mirror. Julia takes her clothes off because she's bugged, but shows little bare skin.

Language

Infrequent but occasionally extreme expletives.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Brief drug reference.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this adult espionage kill-fest isn't recommended for young teens, even those used to graphic violence. Parents should know there is near constant fatal gun violence, otherwise martial arts fighting, people thrown into glass causing shatters and blood, strangling, car chases, and a truckload of dead Vietnamese refugees. There is also nudity, sex, and strong language.

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What's the story?

THE ART OF WAR centers on an FBI agent who's been wrongly accused of murdering the United Nations ambassador to China. FBI agent Shaw (Wesley Snipes) is an expert at evading capture while trying to clear his name. But when Shaw finds out the real murderer is part of a plot to destroy the entire U.N., it's up to him to save the day.

Is it any good?

Audiences may be surprised that Wesley Snipes is so adept at playing a skilled covert agent. He's believably smart, strong, and suspicious, which is much more than can be said for the rest of the movie. There are only vague clues as to how characters and events relate to one another. Scenes are rapid, include many different versions of bad guys and dead bodies by the dozens. Perhaps if given more than a few seconds, viewers would discover that nothing makes sense.

The movie is at its best when Snipes is running after people. The chases are scary and almost always involve jumps from very high places. Since we learn almost nothing about Snipes's character, his agent-on-the-run intensity has to substitute for character development. The hi-tech computer equipment and super undercover agents--interwoven with story threads involving dead Vietnamese refugees and triads--seem as if they're leading viewers, along with Shaw, to an earth-shattering discovery. But it all boils down to a fight between Shaw and an ex-partner who inexplicably emerges as a major character in the movie's final scenes.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the movie's title, and learn more about the film's references to Sen Tsu's book, The Art of War

Movie details

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