Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

I have been having problems sleeping lately. Why Iíve been having these problems I donít know, but maybe it has something to do with the economy or the war or the lay-offs and stuff that are happening across the country, but sleeping has been a problem for me as of late. That was until I got to see Cuba Gooding Jr.ís latest Straight to DVD joint ĎThe Way of Warí which cured all of that. Though itís listed in genre as an Action / Thriller, Iím afraid I must beg to differ with that description as there wasnít that much action and there was certainly the bare minimum of thrills to be found leaving only vast amounts of tedium, boredom and confusion.

Our film opens with the Secretary of Defense holding one of those D.C. style press conferences to alert the world that this realities version of Osama bin Laden, the Ace of Spades, has been captured and killed. Tragically, he also announces that the three soldiers who were on the mission to bring the Ace of Spades to justice have also been killed. Or so he thought as his assistant or something, as actor Lance Reddickís actual title and purpose in this movie remains a mystery to me, informs the Secretary that one of the soldiers actually did survive and now something needs to be done with him.

This Ďloose endí as it were is super badass Special Forces dude David Wolfe (Gooding jr.) who we first meet on a bus from heavens only knows where. A couple of officers working for what Iím guessing is homeland security, on direct orders from the Secretary of Defense, snap a tether on our man and off he goes on his adventures. Now the film vacillates between the present day in which David Wolf attempts to find a Cash Box and discover some truth that I, again, am uncertain of, back to his life a week earlier in Iraq Ė which looks suspiciously like an underground parking lot in New Jersey, where he and a pair of colleagues in Sanchez (J. Omar Castro) and Mitchell (J.K. Simmons) search for the Ace of Spades, and then slightly further back where we see Wolfe courting a bar maid named Sophia (Jaclyn DeSantis).

Stuff happens, David discovers some tragic stuff, goes on an endless cab ride with a cabbie with great music taste, beats up a few dudes, and drags a convenience store clerk into his mess (Clarence Williams III) since the Feds are trying to kill him or something. Now they couldíve easily accomplished this task on the bus that we first met David Wolfe, but then the movie wouldíve been 8 minutes long. Now everything culminates in an underground ultimate fight style competition where the newly named War Machine, that would be David Wolfe, kicks some more ass and confronts his enemy. Of something like that.

Even though ĎThe Way of Warí is listed and an Action / Thriller itís really more of a political intrigue style film which wouldíve been plenty cool with me if the political intrigue was making any kind of sense to me. The fractured style of the narrative doesnít help matters since initially itís difficult to tell exactly when what element of the story was supposed to be taking place and it also prevented the main body of the film from gaining any kind momentum or rhythm since it was constantly being interrupted. Leaving that to the side we still have the challenging issue of trying to figure out whatís actually supposed to be going in this movie. Iím not exactly sure what in the world David Wolfe is attempting to accomplish or what his ultimate goal is as the characters speak in this bizarre matix-esque code that doesnít sound remotely like real people talking to each other. There are other characters who do other odd things that donít make much sense to me, but then letís assume that Iím not all that bright and it was all far too complicated for my simple mind to wrap around.

Thus working with the concept that the subject matter is far too immersive for my simpleton ass to understand, at least this simpleton can mindlessly enjoy some gunfights and car chases and ass kicking, right? Unfortunately this leads us to the main problem with director John Carterís film, who also co-wrote the script, in that itís dull. Itís not like the pacing in the movie is erratic because it is consistent throughout, just consistently slow. Even when characters are holding automatic weapons theyíre doing more cryptic fake speak instead of actually using these weapons and when there is the occasional shootout or fight scene they are relatively brief and uninspired.

Itís too bad really because Mr. Carter is working with an accomplished cast of polished actors headlined by Gooding Jr. who did manager to deliver to the audience that his character was in emotional pain, if he didnít do much to tell us what the hell his purpose in this movie was. Toss in Clarence Williams III who is still alive and doing the damn thing the only way he can do it, Lance Reddick who looks intense just chewing gum and J.K. Simmons who is about as flexible and versatile an actor working today and one would think that the ingredients for a fine film seemed to have been in place. Carter also shoots and frames a decent enough picture as the film had reasonably high production values though some the editing was choppy and the editing decisions a little on the suspect side.

With Gooding Jr.ís previous straight to DVD features, ĎHero Wantedí and ĎLinewatchí being very entertaining fair, considering this movie had a stronger subject matter and a better cast than those previous films, our hopes were high. Unfortunately the only thing ĎThe Way of Warí managed to do for me was cure me of my inability to fall asleep. Iím thankful for that, but probably not something anybody wants to hear when recommending a movie.

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