Wesley Snipes continues to mark time in the vidpic minor leagues with “The Art of War II: Betrayal,” a tired and uninspired sequel to the 2000 bigscreen actioner in which he played a quick-thinking, sharp-shooting, karate-chopping special op improbably employed as a secret weapon of the United Nations. Original was little more than a mildly diverting (albeit over-plotted) B movie, but it boasted a fine supporting cast and flashes of visual flair. Follow-up is a lamely generic throwaway, the kind of low-voltage thriller in which even scenes of hand-to-hand, foot-to-face combat are irredeemably tedious. Don’t expect an “Art of War III.”
Long retired from his U.N. gig, Neil Shaw (Snipes, rotely going through the motions) reluctantly returns to wetwork when his former martial-arts mentor is collaterally damaged by assassination conspirators. Their dark plot has something to do with U.S. senators at odds with a ruthless arms dealer, and something else to do with an action-movie star (Lochlyn Munro) eager to enter politics. (One clever touch, unfortunately under-developed: Shaw is reintroduced as a technical adviser for the action star’s latest pic.)
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Mostly, however, the scheme is merely an excuse for Snipes to run hither and yon, sporadically shoot guns and repeatedly lay brutal smackdowns on hordes of bit players. Nothing else — certainly not Shaw’s involvement with his late mentor’s beautiful daughter (Athena Karkanis) — matters very much.
Helmer Josef Rusnak (who also teamed with Snipes on last year’s made-for-homevid “The Contractor”) attempts to distract from the numbing predictability of the Keith Shaw-Jason Bourque script with jittery camerawork and grainy flashbacks.