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Way of War - action adventure DVD / suspense DVD review
WAY OF WAR Unrated by the Motion Picture Association of America rating: 2 stars
Actors: Cuba Gooding Jr., J.K. Simmons, Jaclyn DeSantis, Clarence Williams, John Terry
Director: John Carter   Distributor: First Look Pictures
DVD release: 10 February 2009   Runtime: 87 minutes (1 disc)
Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, DVD-Video, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
DVD Features: Aspect ratio 2.35:1, Audio tracks (English - Dolby Digital Surround 5.1, Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround), Subtitles (English SDH, Spanish), Previews

Every so often, a low-budget indie will surprise us and, through sharp writing and dialogue, deliver a drama, horror film or thriller that often surpasses the big budget disappointments that Hollywood offers.

Unfortunately, Way of War is not one of them.

The plot: a Special Forces op named Wolfe (Gooding) is part of a three-man assassination squad sent on a secret mission in the Middle East in order to kill a notorious terrorist (who looks a lot like You Know Who). When Wolfe stumbles upon The Truth behind his mission, he returns to the U.S. as a man on the run, determined to expose those in the upper levels of government who are behind the conspiracy.

Though the film has a cast full of familiar faces, none of them are given particularly much to do of interest. Furthermore, the film is clearly hampered by its budget, as only about seven or eight different locales are used while filming around its Washington, DC, location (with only an abandoned warehouse substituting for the supposed Middle East scenes). This is also the kind of movie where nearly everyone is gravely serious and makes statements that are unclear yet, we are to assume, profound. Instead of being moved, I was left scratching my head and frustrated that no one would actually get to the point.

The worst aspect of the movie is that it is poorly edited and in desperate need of story structure. I guess in order to save the revelation of The Truth to the end, the film rather sloppily alternates between the Wolfe character in DC, flashbacks by him back to the mission as well as to his first meeting with his girlfriend, then to scenes with other characters talking in the utmost seriousness about how He is back in town. The film's structure is so poorly done that a) it seems that Wolfe savagely attacks another character for no reason, and b) I was unsure if the death scene of another character occurred in the present or in Wolfe's past. Way too often, I was simply left wondering what the hell was going on.

The bright spot of the movie was Jaclyn DeSantis as Sophia, Wolfe's love interest. She is quite charming and sexy in her too-brief role (and unlike other characters, she dares to break a smile), and she and Gooding have a rather strong chemistry with each other. After seeing this movie, I would have preferred it had the film instead been a romantic drama set entirely in the bar between Wolfe, the returning war hero, and Sophia. It could have been much more interesting than the silly thriller we get instead.

Unfortunately, the film collapses into an ending that is totally ludicrous. The revelation of the Truth is an "Oh, come on!" moment, while the poorly acted death scene of a major villain gave me an unintentional laugh. The less said about the final scene with the Main Villain, the better. Most of the main actors in this film have been in much, much better movies (or TV shows) than this one. Way of War must have been a "paycheck" role for them. If the low-budget indie studios turn out any more thrillers this bad, I'd advise them to forget it and stick to one or two-set dramas instead.

Note: the director must be a huge Washington Redskins fan, as there are numerous references to the 'Skins throughout the movie (even though none of them actually tie into the plot).

Only the trailer and previews of other First Look films.
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reviewed by Trent Daniel
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