Half-hearted hodgepodge of clumsily staged shootouts and maladroit martial artistry.

Wesley Snipes may have passed on a three-peat in the franchise he kicked off with 2000’s “The Art of War,” but that wasn’t quite enough to impede production of another needless sequel. Arriving exactly one year after “The Art of War II: Betrayal,” a dreary direct-to-video trifle in which Snipes went through the motions with all the enthusiasm of someone doing community service after a misdemeanor conviction, “The Art of War III: Retribution” is an even worse half-hearted hodgepodge of clumsily staged shootouts and maladroit martial artistry. Only the least demanding genre fans will take notice.

The Naughty by Nature hip-hopper known as Treach (aka Anthony Criss) fills in for Snipes as Neil Shaw, a straight-shooting, ass-kicking United Nations special op who’s sent to Seoul on the eve of a summit conference to avert a nuclear arms deal between North Korean agents and Russian-connected “facilitators.” Bullets are fired, necks are snapped and blood is splattered, but nothing really exciting happens as helmer Gerry Lively ponderously maneuvers through a morass of action-pic cliches.

A stiff and unexciting screen presence, Treach increases the boredom quotient with monotone narration of aphorisms distilled from — yes, you guessed it! — Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War.” Sample: “A well-informed warrior is a victorious one.” Really.

Warren Derosa tries a little too hard as Shaw’s over-eager neophyte assistant, but his attempts to hot-wire this chronically stalled pic are welcome nonetheless. Sung Hi Lee, every bit as beautiful as you’d expect a former Playboy model to be, plays a distressed damsel who evolves into a femme fatale. She, too, tries hard, but she’s not entirely believable with a gun in her hand.

Production values are average for a generic vidpic.

The Art of War III: Retribution



A Sony Pictures Home Entertainment release of a Hollywood Media Bridge production. Produced by Phillip B. Goldfine, Dan Lyon, Ari Newman. Executive producer, Alison Semenza. Directed by Gerry Lively. Screenplay, Joe Halpin, based on characters created by Wayne Beach.


Camera (color), Suki Medencevic; editor, Randy Carter; music, Louis Castle, James Bairian; production designer, Billy Jett; sound, David Kitchens; assistant director, Brian O'Sullivan; casting, Jeff Gerrard. Reviewed on DVD, Houston, Aug. 11, 2009. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 88 MIN.


Treach, Warren Derosa, Sung Hi Lee, Janet Carroll, Leo Lee.
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