Monday, August 5, 2013

Summer Celebrating: Biehn VS Snipes

Arnold's birthday was last week.  The day after was Messrs Michael Biehn (Arnie's Terminator co-star) and Wesley Snipes' who starred and sparred opposite one another in 2000's The Art of War; a well made, pre-Bourne Identity of sorts about a secret agent working for shadowy government agencies, getting betrayed and fighting his way to the truth.  Hot off the surprise success of 1998's Blade, Warner Brothers slotted the Franchise Pictures production in the same late August weekend of 2000 hoping to replicate the success.  I remember seeing this in theaters but can't remember if I even knew Michael Biehn was in it.  He got the WITH credit before AND Donald Sutherland which seemed pretty cool.  I just recall thinking Biehn looked like Joe Pantoliano in this flick because of all the hats...

Unfortunately, The Art of War wouldn't be a home run for anyone involved.  It was a modest hit that grossed less than half of what Blade did and was quickly forgotten.  Over the next decade Snipes' only big screen successes came from Blade sequels before being sent to prison for tax evasion.  Biehn, whose star confoundedly never rose after his collaborations with James Cameron, (Terminator, Aliens, The Abyss) battled substance abuse during the 90's but managed to pop up and deliver memorable performances in films like Tombstone and The Rock in between low budget DTV projects.

While it didn't set the box office on fire, The Art of War holds up as an enjoyable, slightly smarter than average government-conspiracy action-thriller.  Director Christian Duguay (Screamers, Peter Weller alert!) gives the production a polished look, utilizing the dense cityscape of Vancouver while assembling a stout supporting cast that includes Anne Archer, Donald Sutherland and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa.  It's fisticuffs, shoot outs, car chases, mistaken identity and on the lam shenanigans at it's foreign pre-sale funded best.

If you haven't seen the movie, I'm about to spoil it for you.

Biehn plays Robert Bly, fellow agent to Snipes' Neil Shaw.  We meet Shaw infiltrating a Y2K bash (remember Y2K?!), hacking into computers, black mailing Chinese diplomats, fighting bodyguards and parachuting off the roof while Bly mans the control truck and watches his partner's back.  When Shaw is injured, it's Bly who comes to check on his recovery.  The two are quickly back to work on a surveillance gig when things seemingly go bad and Bly is shot and believed killed.  By the end of the flick we learn that Shaw's superiors are ramping up efforts to fight against a perceived Chinese threat and frame him for the murder of a key leader.  Bly is revealed to be in on it and the two come face to face and silencer to silencer in a final showdown; complete with "Hong Kong cinema techniques stolen by The Matrix" ripple, bullet time effects.

The Biehn has faced his share of colorful onscreen deaths and AoW is no exception.  Following a scrap that includes shooting, brawling and glass breaking across two stories, Snipes trips up The Biehn who falls throat first into a stand of broken glass.  Ouch.

Birthday boys Biehn and Snipes nearly re-teamed for 2007's DTV effort The Contractor with 300 and Game of Thrones star Lena Headey but Biehn's schedule on Robert Rodriguez's half of Grindhouse couldn't accommodate the trip to Eastern Europe.  Maybe with Biehn producing his own films now we may see the two team up again in the future.

Here's part of the final fight with some random music edited in:

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