Film / The Art of War

If you were looking for the epic Chinese poem about war strategy, go here.

The Art of War is a 2000 action film directed by Christian Duguay, starring Wesley Snipes, Anne Archer, Michael Biehn, and Donald Sutherland.

Neil Shaw (Snipes) is a covert operative assigned to the United Nations, who is apparently framed for a high-profile assassination by his employers.

It was followed by two Direct-to-Video sequels, the last of which did not feature Snipes.

This film provides examples of:

  • All Part of the Show: The guests at David Chan's Y2K rooftop bash think Shaw fighting Chan's henchman is part of the festivities and get excited when a body camera is activated to be shown on the big screen during the fisticuffs.
  • Alone with the Psycho: Julia is trapped at the end inside the UN Building, first alone with Eleanor Hooks, who lets her walk out, only to be stalked by Bly.
  • Assassins Are Always Betrayed: Shaw is an assassin/covert agent for the UN, who has to uncover an international conspiracy after being set up by his employer and his teammate.
  • Backwards-Firing Gun: An improvised version occurs during a Gun Struggle, with the protagonist jamming the barrel of The Dragon's pistol against a marble floor and forcing him to fire, causing part of the slide to fly back into his face from the confined gunshot.
  • Battle in the Rain: Well, it's a fight in a building and it's raining outside.
  • Blunt "Yes": When we first meet Capella, he's without a stir straw for his hot coffee, so he swirls around the sugar with his finger.
    Ray: Doesn't that hurt?
    Capella: Yeah. *keeps swirling*
  • Bond Cold Open: The movie starts with Shaw and his team working on an assignment covering David Chan. Like the actual Bond movie that opened the year before, the cold open ends with Shaw falling a long way and taking a shoulder injury that plays an important role in the plot.
  • Boom, Headshot: Ambassador Wu, David Chan, Anna's mother, the Triad who killed Jenna, and Eleanor Hooks are all executed in this manner.
  • Bullet Time: The climactic shootout slows down for a moment to show a bullet whizzing just by Shaw's knee.
  • Call Back: Shaw's chase of David Chan's assassin takes the exact same path as the one earlier in the movie when he was chasing Ambassador Wu's assassin, complete with flashbacks. This turns out not to be a coincidence.
  • Conveniently Empty Building: The U.N. building is apparently manned by one security guard.
  • Cool Guns: Shaw's Glock 17 with a custom rectangular suppressor, as well as Bly's suppressed Beretta 92D DAO pistol.
  • Delivery Guy Infiltration: There's a Bait and Switch when Wesley Snipes appears to be using Marie Matiko's character to infiltrate a Triad brothel, which is hidden behind a Front Organisation of a restaurant. Instead he handcuffs her to the steering wheel, grabs a crate of groceries which are being unloaded from a truck, and walks in that way.
  • Emergency Stash: Neil Shaw accessed an emergency stash of I.D. and money. It was hidden behind a mirror in the apartment of the one comrade who didn't betray him.
  • The End... Or Is It??: Shaw fakes his death and escapes to France, only to have his picture taken as he walks off arm-in-arm with Julia, by the same man who took the blackmail photos earlier.
  • Faking the Dead: When the Triads spring Shaw to frame him by disabling and flipping the police van, they shoot a prone Capella (whose eyes then close) to make sure he's dead. When they drive off, Capella climbs out of the wreckage and unbuttons his shirt to reveal a bulletproof vest. At the end of the movie, Capella helps fake Shaw's death so he can go off-the-grid with Julia in France.
  • Friendly Enemy: Every time Capella and Shaw cross paths, their tones are rather pleasant as opposed to one of an agent and a man wanted for an international incident. Mainly because Capella is a Deadpan Snarker and Shaw is a good guy.
  • Gun Kata: The film had a similar style fight in an empty hallway. A certain amount of respect and honor was loaded into the scene, as when they ran out of bullets, they went back to back and talked while casually reloading. Shaw and The Dragon spend most of the fight throwing snapshots... panic firing. It's more like Gun Fu since they still use acrobatic dodging.
  • I Know You're Watching Me: After being arrested and left alone in an interrogation room, Shaw raps suddenly on the glass, startling a female witness who's been called in to identify him, and causing a cop to spill his coffee.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: One of the Triad mooks gets a steel beam through his face. Then Bly gets impaled on a giant shard of glass, neck-first!
  • Impersonating an Officer: Shaw is checking out a Triad hangout when the police raid it. He apparently evades them, but a black FBI agent starts moving in the same direction he did, gun at the ready. Later one of the perps is getting in the face of several officers when that same agent appears, slams the man's head into the table, then hauls him outside to the amusement of the officers. It turns out to be Wes wearing the FBI man's cap and raid jacket.
  • Impromptu Tracheotomy: Bly's death via glass shard. It's as horrifying as you may think, but a perfect death for a traitor.
  • Irony: David Chan sports a bandage on his arm where he was shot during the assassination of Ambassador Wu; when Shaw rips it off to expose the lack of a wound underneath, a sniper then shoots Chan right where the original "wound" would have been, followed by a headshot.
  • Inspector Javert: Agent Capella on the trail of Shaw.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Eleanor Hooks's death at the hands of the Triad, right after gloating to Shaw everything that she's responsible for is easily pinned on them.
  • Neck Snap: Shaw does this to an assassin in the hospital and Bly does it one-handed to a guard.
  • Never Found the Body: A big tip-off that Robert Bly is The Mole is the chase scene with Bly and "the assassin" takes place off-screen and over the radio, and no sight of Bly's body when he's "killed".
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: A villainous version as the Triads track down Shaw's partner Jenna and brutally beat her to death. Shaw immediately pays her killer in kind.
  • Not My Driver: Hooks's limo driver is not her driver, but rather a Triad member who executes her right then and there.
  • Oh Crap!: Shaw stumbles onto a tracking device that makes him realize he's the one who's been bugged the whole time, and immediately connects the dots that Bly re-injured his shoulder during the pickup game so the doctor could place the tracker in the wound. Cue Bly's arrival.
    Robert Bly: How does it feel to be a puppet without the strings!
  • One Bullet Left: During the climax, Shaw and the villain grapple with a gun at close range, so Shaw manages to eject the magazine to protect himself. However, Robert Bly sneers that "there's still one left in the chamber."
  • Pretty Little Headshots: Played straight with Ambassador Wu, Anna's mother, and David Chan, averted with Eleanor Hooks, whose brain matter ends up on the window.
  • Rewind, Replay, Repeat: When Julia is in the diner getting food, Shaw spots someone dropping a bag into a trash can. He replays it in his mind to confirm it, realizes it's a bomb, and crashes into the diner to dispose of it. Later, Shaw and Julia watch the footage of Ambassador Wu's assassination and notice that David Chan looks up in the direction of the shooter just before the gunfire occurs.
  • Tap on the Head: Robert Bly to Julia during the climax.
  • Those Two Guys: FBI agents Frank Capella and Ray, who continuously canvas the previous scenes in Shaw's wake.
  • Tracking Device: Shaw suspects Julia has a tracking device on her clothes and makes her take it all off and throw the clothes out the window of their car. Needless to say she is not happy. Later Shaw finds a tracking sensor and realises he is the one who has the tracking device implanted under his skin by a doctor working in league with The Mole, who 'accidentally' injured him during a basketball game.
  • Treachery Cover Up: Shaw is set up for the murder of the Chinese ambassador in the middle of US-China trade talks. After finding out that a UN Liason/Covert Mission Control who was involved in the talks is the mastermind, he reveals the truth to the Triads. She is murdered by a member of the Triads and is lauded as a hero, who gave her life to ensure the success of US-China trade relations. Of course, this also serves as a big "fuck you" to her, as she was secretly working on sabotaging the talks.
  • Turn of the Millennium: The story starts on New Year's Eve 1999.
  • Two Guys and a Girl: The U.N.'s secret-ops team of Shaw, Bly, and Jenna Novak.
  • Underside Ride: Happens near the end, when Shaw escapes from a group of assassins by lying flat in the road, seemingly to avoid being hit by an oncoming truck. When it passes, he's nowhere to be seen, until it's revealed he escaped by grabbing on to the undercarriage.
  • United Nations Is a Superpower: Neil Shaw is an agent working for a United Nations black ops team that uses espionage, assassination, and other quasi-ethical methods to ensure cooperation from problematic nations.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: When the FBI comes across a shipping container full of dead refugees, Capella's partner turns to hurl on the pavement, and the camera thankfully pans to an overhead shot.
  • We Need a Distraction: The Big Bad ensures the building is empty by announcing a fake motion detector test, causing all security to leave the affected areas except the poor sap in the monitor room.