On The Art of War (2000)

Book coverAs I just read a translation of The Art of War, of course I jumped right on watching this film even though I didn’t pick it up on my latest DVD buying binge. Actually, it ended up atop the cabinets by the media center because last week, as my boys were out of town, I organized the media center by throwing all of the video game controllers, cords, and games into their cabinet and also tried to match discs with their cases for the most part before giving up when I was almost done. In condensing the unwatched films from the top of the cabinet to the interior, it moved them around a bit so some from the cabinet are now atop the cabinet and more visible when I’m in the mood for a film. Kind of like I did to my library 7 years ago(?!)–which means I should give that a go again this year and rediscover half my books.

At any rate, on to my thoughts on this film. Hominy crickets, but this film, released in 2000, might be the very 1990s movie ever.

I mean, Snipes plays a black bag covert ops guy for the United Nations whose first exploit is to jam up a North Korean general in Hong Kong who is dealing in sophisticated military equipment and underage prostitutes. When the Canadian Secretary-General of the UN, played by Donald Sutherland, learns that someone is trying to saboutage a US-China free trade agreement, he reluctantly brings Snipes’s character in to investigate and to protect the Chinese ambassador (James Hong). When the ambassador is assassinated, Snipes is framed for it and has to hunt down the real conspirators aided only by a translator who claims he’s innocent (played by Marie Matiko).

I mean, it’s got the UN as the ultimate power broker here, using its covert operations branch to manipulate China and the US into a better tomorrow. I mean, of course the bad guys are ultimately westerners who want to hold China down (and, presumably, to loot China’s cultural treasures as in every martial arts movie I’ve seen recently). But this is strictly Hollywood’s play: The actors are mostly American, and most are not Chinese, even the Asian characters. We’ve got Koreans playing Japanese, Americans of Japanese descent playing Chinese characters, and so on. I mean, even James Hong is an American of Chinese descent from Minneapolis. Weird.

And listen to the big speech by the ultimate bad guy:

Eleanor Hooks, the bad guy: The Art of War teaches win by destroying your enemy from within. Ironic, isn’t it, that a 2000-year-old strategy would be turned against the very people who created it? Better us doing it to them than them doing it to us.

Julia, the translator caught up in the middle of this: What are you talking about?

Hooks: I’m talking about 20 years of China fucking America from within, and nobody noticing. Well, now, they’re going to notice.

Julia: You. You’re behind all this.

Hooks: With just enough help from David Chan to keep everyone guessing. David Chan most of all.

Julia: I don’t understand.

Hooks: Of course, you don’t, my dear. Because you, like most people, never stop to look at the big picture. I’ve been looking at the big picture every day for 20 years, and I’ve tried to look forward, and you know what I see? I see China maintaining a stranglehold on freedom, influencing our political process with illegal campaign contributions, stealing our most secret military technology and selling it to our enemies, weakening us from the inside. Like a virus. This trade deal is an invitation to finish the job. I intend to cancel that invitation. I intend to return America to Americans.

Geez Louise, considering that the bad guy was looking at the situation in 2000, think of how it is now, a quarter century later. I’m more sympathetic to the bad guys than the good guys from the U.N.

But the ultimate bad guy is not a MAGA Republican:

Julia: Who do you think you’re representing?

Hooks: The people who have steered this nation for decades behind the scenes, the people who protect democracy from itself.

Julia: For a woman obsessed with Chinese conspiracies, you sound frighteningly like the government you’re trying to stop.

The ultimate bad guy wants to save the day for the deep state.

Twenty years later, things are the same. But different.

Enough of that, though. Marie Matiko plays Julia, the translator in over her head.

I don’t think the John Lennon glasses look worked for her in The Art of War, but she is pretty nevertheless.

Martiko is a Japanese-sounding stage name; her birth name, according to IMDB, is Marie Bernadette Gulmatico, which is definitely an American-sounding name all right. She only appeared in a handful of television programs and had bit parts in films over the years.

And they must have stood Wesley Snipes on a box when he was next to her, as her given height is 6′ and Snipes is given as 5’9″ (but I’ll bet he looks bigger than that in person).

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