Hey folks, Valkor here. And third times the charm when it comes to Cuba Gooding Jr.'s direct to video flicks. I really enjoyed "Hero Wanted" and found "Linewatch" to be watchable fare; now his third DTV outing has hit the Val-Cave, though not as good as the previous films I mentioned, I still found "Way of War" to be an ok thriller.
In "Way of War", Gooding plays as a highly trained assassin named David Wolf aka "Wolf", who was part of a 3-man special ops group that was dropped into the Middle East with a mission to kill the "Ace of Spades" (I'm assuming it has to do with that deck of cards of terrorists most wanted). However, the government thinks he died along with the other two ops... that is until he turns up in D.C. And now they want Wolf brought in because he has uncovered a conspiracy that goes all the way to the top. And it's up to Wolf to stay alive long enough to expose that secret. Throughout the time of Wolf avoiding capture, we see past events play out through flashbacks starting with the mission and just a peek inside of his personal life. Along the way, Wolf gets some help from a lonely store owner named Mac, who has a somber tale of his own. And with Mac's help, Wolf is taken deep into D.C.'s underworld to get to the man behind the conspiracy. Not really heavy when it comes to plot twists, but what you get is a decent suspense film that'll hold your interest.
Finally, Gooding is in a role that actually fits him - he doesn't do well as a brooding trashman in "Hero Wanted", and I didn't care for him too much as an ex-gangbanger turned Border Patrol in "Linewatch". But in "Way of War", playing an ex-paramilitary type works perfectly. I'm not saying its Oscar-worthy acting, but he does hold up well. Also, the plot is not the greatest story every told but it's solid and definitely watchable. The film also has an excellent supporting cast with big ups going to J.K. Simmons as "Mitchell". Honestly, I'll watch this guy in just about any film. Though his screen time is relegated to the flashbacks and each scene is brief, he still does some mighty fine work. Another surprise casting choice goes out to Clarence Williams III as "Mac"; one of my favorite roles he's done was in "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka" as Kalinga. And though he's put on some pounds, his eyes are a dead give away to who he is. His performance in "WoW" is pretty good, though he isn't given much to much to do after he and Wolf meet up. Finally, the ending... not all that shocking, but it does have a bit of a "wow factor" to it with Vernel Bagneris as "The Ace of Spades", who is an Osama Bin Laden type. I dare you to watch his scene when the camera first hits him and not say "wow".
"Way of War" has ways to go before its final release, which means there's room for change. And one thing that needs to change is to tighten the film up a bit on the pacing. Next, the flashbacks are not seamless - they just sort of happen and they're all over the place. One minute we're in Afghanistan and the next we're back with Wolf and his girl. Speaking of his girlfriend, we see the end results of her murder, but how and why she was killed... well we never find out. I'm also not feeling the 3-man operation to get at "The Ace of Spades"; There should have been at least five guys for added suspense and action. Speaking of action, for a military thriller, there isn't too much of bullets flying about and not enough bodies hitting the floor.
Where the hell did that underground "Fight Club" scene come from? What a complete waste of time! Here's how the scene plays out: Wolf gets into the ring with an opponent bigger than him. The big guy throws a few punches, they miss their mark; Wolf punches the guy in the neck, and the fights over. OH COME ON! Not only is the scene a complete waste of time but the fight itself just plain sucked.
I don't know what it is with Cuba and these DTV movies. I mean he's a bankable actor and if given the proper script, he can work magic. Even with a so-so plot like that of "Way of War", Cuba shines. Overall, the film is exciting, with decent acting, a medium level of suspense, a fair amount action, and a story that's straightforward and to the point. So, out of TOV 5 stars, I'm giving "Way of War" 3.5 stars, which makes this film worthy of at least a rental.