A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this violent Jet Li action movie -- which is full of body-smashing, martial arts-style fights, plus shooting, punching, knifing, and car crashes -- isn't for kids. Bare-breasted, thong-clad club dancers serve as a visual indication of the villains' corruption (one woman is given as a "present" to Rogue, but no sexual activity is shown). Jack smokes cigarettes, especially at the beginning of the movie, and there's plenty of drinking, though much is in the background. Language is frequent, usually angry, and mostly consists of "f--k."
What's the story?
WAR breaks out when San Francisco-based FBI agents Jack (Jason Statham) and Tom (Terry Chen) take on two gangs at once: the Chinese Triads, led by Chang (John Lone), and the Japanese Yakuza, headed up by Shiro (Ryo Ishibashi) and his cold-blooded daughter, Kira (Devon Aoki). Despite the terrible odds, Tom and Jack are fearless and swift, even risking the wrath of legendary assassin Rogue (Jet Li). When Tom and his family are brutally murdered, Jack begins a vendetta that strains his family life. Still, Jack is an action hero on a mission. He abandons his family to investigate clue after clue with his task force, getting ever closer to mysterious, plastic-surgery-altered Rogue.
Is it any good?
War's rudimentary plot doesn't go much beyond the basic premise; more disappointing are the limits the film places on its two charismatic stars. Li's only job is to look mysterious and speak very little, and Statham is relegated to charging around and watching his young, loyal, multicultural team members picked off one by one. Though frontloaded with fights and crashes, the formula actually seems to slow down the speedy action.
In his feature film debut, director Philip G. Atwell displays a fondness for fast cuts and close-ups, with an emphasis on big sound effects and machismo. He fleshes out the movie's fundamental revenge story with international jet-setting and plot points that have family members turning into both loyal fighters and victims.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the appeal of violent action movies. Why are filmgoers so entranced by fight scenes? Does the style of fighting affect how much you enjoy watching it? Families can also discuss the concept of revenge, which the movie revolves around. What is gained by revenge? Is violent vengeance ever justified? Parents, talk with your kids about the difference between real life and fantasy -- even teens. Point out that consequences exist -- even if it makes you feel humorless. The fact that violent movies stimulate parts of the brain is worth a reminder.
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