Lowdown: Total war between the FBI, the Yakuza, the Triads, and a mysterious assassin.
Rogue Assassin is a compromised film from its very beginning. While the Blu-ray sports a box claiming the film to be called “Rogue Assassin”, the opening credits refer to the film as “War”; later I noticed the disc’s menus and supplemental material refer to the film solely as War. What happened there is a question that is begging to be asked, and after watching the film I can report this very question may apply to more than the film’s title alone.
Rogue Assassin pits in opposite corners two famous action stars that have been frequenting this blog much lately. On one hand we have Jet Li, who seems to have developed a talent to appear in mediocre films and thus feels at home with Rogue. However, on the other hand we have Jason Statham, an actor specializing in silly action films (e.g., The Transporter) that thus far I have always thoroughly enjoyed. As with The Bank Job, Statham is stepping outside his native environment of the silly action film, but unlike The Bank Job the result does not flatter him.
Set in San Francisco, Statham plays an FBI agent traumatized by losing the partner that saved his life from a valiant attempt by the mysterious Rogue Assassin; that life was lost to that same mysterious Rogue Assassin. Rogue, because the guy used to work for the CIA, then betrayed them and started working for the Yakuza, and now he’s back. Only this time he's siding with the Chinese Triads and he's armed with a new plastically surgeoned face that looks remarkably like Jet Li’s. Our duo of heroes fight things out while in the background (or is it the foreground?) the Yakuza fights things out with the Triads, hence the title name War.
Sporting some nice action scenes and a twist that genuinely took me by surprise, Rogue Assassin is (in addition to being an action film) another shallow cinematic attempt to look at what makes good and what makes bad, Face/Off style. It is, however, full of problems.
First you have the things that don’t make sense, like people changing their accent post plastic surgery to the face. Who would have thought a nose job goes that far? Second, there is a definite flaw in the film’s flow; I cannot recommend Rogue Assassin’s editing and direction work. And third: With all due respect, Rogue Assassin is a film we’ve seen many times before, twist or no twist.
Ultimately, Rogue Assassin feels like a Jason Statham film that decided, wrongly, to take itself seriously.
Best scene: There is no real standout scene in Rogue Assassin. My pick therefore is the scene where the daughter of the Yakuza boss, upon arrival at their San Francisco head office (located, oddly enough, at an exotic car dealership) talks tough to the two local branch managers. The reason for this pick? It’s a silly scene, the way the rest of the film should have been acted, even if it may have been the result of poor acting rather than an intentional effort.
Technical assessment: Crisp picture and an aggressive, if uninspiring, uncompressed PCM soundtrack.
Overall: A rather confused effort. 2.5 out of 5 stars.