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The Gratuitous B-Movie Column: The Art of War II: Betrayal

June 4, 2021 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
The Art of War II: Betrayal Wesley Snipes

The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Issue #592: The Art of War II: Betrayal

Hello, everyone, and welcome once again to the internets movie review column that has never been asked to dance fight, which is okay with me because I don’t know how, The Gratuitous B-Movie Column, and I am your host Bryan Kristopowitz. In this issue, issue number five hundred and ninety-two, I finally take a look at the low budget, direct-to-video sequel The Art of War II: Betrayal, which debuted in mid-August 2008.

The Art of War II: Betrayal


The Art of War II: Betrayal, directed by Josef Rusnak, is a movie that I’ve been trying to review for the last thirteen years (I’m not exaggerating). Back in 2008 I rented the movie from a now long gone video store only for the DVD to crap out on me. I attempted to rent it again the following year but, again, the DVD crapped out on me (and it was a different DVD because the video store removed it from the shelf when it crapped out on me and it took a while for another copy to show up at the store). I tried recording it off of TV a few years later but, for whatever reason, the movie never recorded. I never wanted to buy it off of Amazon because I was sure that it would turn up at some point in the discount DVD bin at Walmart (if it did I never found it). There were also other movies to review. I was sure I would eventually get to The Art of War II: Betrayal at some point. And now, I am finally reviewing it. Was it worth the wait?

In a way, yes, it was. While it isn’t a classic or anything like that, The Art of War II: Betrayal is a fairly well made low budget, direct-to-video movie with a star that seems fairly engaged in his performance and the plot of the movie. Yes, the plot is a bit too complicated for its own good, it makes no sense, and there’s a big twist at the end of the movie that doesn’t register in the way the movie wants it to, I enjoyed watching The Art of War II: Betrayal more than I didn’t. Sometimes that’s the best you can hope for with these direct-to-video action movie sequels (and direct-to-video action movies in general).

The Art of War II: Betrayal stars Wesley Snipes as Neil Shaw, the badass secret agent who we first saw in 2000’s The Art of War, which was theatrically released and directed by Christian Duguay, the guy who directed the Scanners sequels, Scanners II: The New Order (check out my review of that flick here) and Scanners III: The Takeover (check out my review of that flick here). As I remember it, Shaw was some sort of secret agent for the United Nations in the first The Art of War and ended up having to go on the run when he was framed for the murder of a UN politician. The movie reminded me, in some ways, of the sequel to The Fugitive, U.S. Marshals. So, eight years after the events of the first movie, Shaw is working under a new name as a technical advisor to Hollywood. Shaw is also big friends with action star Garret (Lochlyn Munro), who is apparently thinking of running for the U.S .Senate. After telling Shaw that he thinks someone is trying to blackmail him, Garret hires Shaw to find out who the hell sent him a photo of him in the midst of a threesome. Shaw doesn’t really want to get involved, but Garret is an old friend and he doesn’t have that many old friends in his life.

Now, while all of that is going on, Shaw finds out that his old martial arts instructor has died and, while attending the man’s funeral (I think the martial arts instructor is named “Mother,” at least that’s what it sounds like all of the characters are saying. I couldn’t find an entry on imdb with that name, so who knows?), Shaw finds out that his old instructor had a daughter, Heather (Athena Karkanis). Heather doesn’t like Shaw, but she needs his help with her father’s old martial arts studio. Or something like that.

And while all of that is going on, there’s a rogue arms dealer trying to get military officials and various politicians interested in buying his super weapon, which is basically the alien gun from I Come in Peace but it shoots little missiles. One politician who isn’t all that thrilled with the new gun is Carlson (Rachel Hayward), who is either a Congressperson or a Senator (I think she’s a Senator but I’m not entirely sure). In the midst of his investigation for Garret, Shaw talks with Carlson and tells her that she needs to be worried about whatever the hell it is that’s going on.

So then some stuff happens, a politician is killed, and suddenly Shaw is directly implicated in the killing. Shaw then goes on the run, enlisting the help of an old hacker buddy (I want to say that this is Alex, played by Ryan McDonald), an old former fellow secret agent turned reverend and homeless shelter runner, Reverend Tim (Winston Rekert), and, eventually, Heather. There’s action and intrigue galore as Shaw figures out what the hell is really going on. The movie, for some inexplicable reason, has three endings.

So why is this movie so complicated? Damned if I know. There are three plots that could have made fine enough movies on their own (Shaw helping his old buddy figure out who is blackmailing him could have been one movie, meeting Heather and helping her deal with the aftermath of her father’s death could have been a second movie, and the shady arms dealer could have been a third), but for whatever reason the producers decided to include all three of them in this movie. Since none of them are given any time to develop into anything, they just sort of exist and come off as things Shaw has to deal with. I’m just going to venture a guess and surmise that the reason all three plots were included in this one story is so the big twist at the end of the movie seems like a big twist instead of just another ending. Snipes does sell the ending, so at least the audience gets to experience that, but I’d suspect that Snipes couldn’t explain what the hell really happened if his life depended on it. Snipes knew that if it seemed like he knew what was going on and made it seem like his Shaw character was fucked over the movie would work in the end.

And Snipes, oddly enough, always seems engaged throughout, even when the overall plot of the movie is incomprehensible. That’s what makes this movie more successful than some of the movies that fellow action star Steven Seagal put out in the mid-2000’s. Snipes makes it seem like he really believes in what the hell is going on, even if it isn’t entirely clear what’s going on. Snipes also kicks ass in the movie’s multiple hand-to-hand fight scenes. It actually looks like he participated in most of them. That’s always cool to see. Snipes has a smooth, brutal fighting style that always looks like it hurts, and there are multiple times in Betrayal where it looks like he seriously fucked a guy up.

The action overall is pretty good throughout The Art of War II: Betrayal. The gun fights sound right, there are some nifty explosions, and the sequence set in the Middle East that turns out to be the movie Garret is filming on a set somewhere in Los Angeles is some of the best direct-to-video action I’ve ever seen. The CGI used for the super gun is a little dodgy, but we only have to see it a few times. It’s not like the last third of the movie is bad guys firing the super gun at Shaw, which is what I was expecting to see once the gun was introduced into the plot. I wouldn’t mind seeing a movie all about that gun, though. The low budget action movie world could always use another movie about a super gun that could destroy the world if it falls into the wrong hands. That plot is hard to screw up.

The movie tries very hard to make you think that it takes place in California but it doesn’t quite succeed there. The world never looks swanky or rich enough to be Los Angeles, although I will say that the cinematography isn’t as dreary looking as some other low budget action movies. It’s always jarring to see the sun and bright colors in the low budget, direct-to-video movie world.

The main cast is pretty good overall. Snipes, again, seems super engaged in what’s going on and doesn’t phone his performance in. He’s charismatic, he kicks ass, and he’s fun to watch. He didn’t have to do that. I’ve seen him not do any of those things in the low budget, direct-to-video movie world (I’m looking at you The Marksman). I’m happy he made an effort, though. His presence and enthusiasm help make The Art of War II: Betrayal better than it could have been with a less engaged star actor.

Lochlyn Munro does a nice job as Garret. He manages to make Garret sleazy but not so sleazy that you don’t like him, at least at the beginning of the movie. Athena Karkanis does a good job as Heather. She has decent chemistry with Snipes and it’s not hard to believe that they would, eventually, care for one another considering what they go through together. Their “martial arts dance” scene is pretty cool. Winston Rekert probably should have been in the movie more than he is as Reverend Tim. I’d love to know more about his relationship with Shaw, not to mention I think it would be awesome to see them as a sort of secret agent tandem, taking down bad guys and whatnot. And Ryan McDonald is a riot as Alex the hacker. It’s a damn shame what happens to him.

The Art of War II: Betrayal is not a great movie. It’s best described as “pretty good some of the time, merely good enough the rest of the time.” I’m glad I finally got to see it, though. And I just realized that I have now seen all three of the The Art of War movies. I reviewed the third one, the one without Wesley Snipes in it, but that review seems to have disappeared from the internets. Perhaps I need to track that one down and watch it again. I don’t remember a goddamn thing about it.

See The Art of War II: Betrayal, especially if you’re a Wesley Snipes fan/completist. You might like it, too, if you’re a fan of low budget, direct-to-video action flicks. Again, it’s not a great movie at all, but it’s worth seeing at least once. It’s entertaining enough for what it is.

So what do we have here?

Dead bodies: At least 20.

Explosions: Multiple.

Nudity?: None.

Doobage: Fence climbing, exercising, a funeral, multiple flashbacks, a wicked head shot, exploding car, RPG rocket attack, exploding door, multiple swords on the walls, more flashbacks, dance fighting, people interacting on a boat, attempted stabbing, a boat fight, arms dealing, multiple exploding objects, suitcase moving, a hidden microphone inside of a political campaign button, complicated politics, multiple Canadian accents, a big hooha party, security guard beating, a weird fight in silhouette, a guy gets kicked through a glass door, serious glass door breaking, a sad war story, multiple sudden beat downs, cellphone stealing, a gas station beating, phone records, a guy eating a sandwich while lying on the couch, a big confession, a cool glass cutter, alleged sarin gas, a full on apartment massacre, homeless shelter hooey, an assault at an abandoned farm, a nose injection, bullet to the head, hanging a guy in order to kill him, a one-on-one brawl, gun torture, total ceiling destruction, a final flashback, and a big twist ending.

Kim Richards?: None.

Gratuitous: A Sun Tzu quote, Wesley Snipes, Wesley Snipes doing martial arts exercises while the opening credits happen, Wesley Snipes drinking water, Wesley Snipes wearing a purple bow tie to a funeral, Lochlyn Munro, talk of “the dance,” a “I want to make a difference” speech, cell phone reading, Wesley Snipes hanging out in a bowling alley, talk of tax cuts and military spending, Wesley Snipes saying “Sun Tzu. The Art of War,” computer hacking, Wesley Snipes beating up a guy the same way his younger self saw his martial arts teacher beat up a guy in an earlier flashback, some guy using his cellphone while pumping gas, Wesley Snipes talking about Sun Tzu again, a rat, Wesley Snipes in disguise as a rat catcher, a nose injection, Wesley Snipes walking into an elevator backwards, and a big twist ending.

Best lines: “Did you know that you’re the reason my father is dead?,” “I didn’t think you would come,” “A lot of pain in here,” “Everything cool? Yeah. He’s back in. I told ya,” “The L-9 Battle Rifle has my full support,” “Senator, we need to talk,” “Now I see why they have a problem with you. Smart lady,” “The Senator’s been shot!,” “Please explain to me how this operation became a complete shitstorm,” “I thought you didn’t do this shit anymore,” “Sanitize! Sanitize! Sanitize!,” “Becker. You just made it to the top of my hit list,” “Eye drops,” “Here ya go, blondie,” “Losing your touch there, Becker. Where did it all go wrong?,” “Neil, I’m afraid! It’s okay. Everything’s going to be fine,” “Goddamn. What the hell was that?,” “You’re a dead man, Shaw. Yeah, what’s new?,” and “Is that how you treat your friends?”

Rating: 6.5/10.0


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Things to Watch Out For


Scanner Cop/Scanner Cop II: The fine folks at Vinegar Syndrome are behind this Blu-ray double pack that’s also in 4KHD, which sounds ridiculous but likely makes both movies look insanely good. Anyway, these are the two fantastic flicks that came out in the mid-1990’s and were the last two sequels to the Cronenberg sci-fi horror classic and starred the now late but always great Daniel Quinn as a cop that’s also a scanner, and he takes on the always fantastic Richard Lynch in the first movie and then a fucking phenomenal Patrick Kilpatrick. Both of these movies are filled with awesome special effects and terrific performances from all involved. As for this set, it looks like it’s chock full of special features with documentaries and interviews and whatnot. All I have to say is it’s about goddamn time it happened because, like loads of low budget action and horror flicks from the 1980’s and 1990’s, the Scanner Cop movies deserve this kind of attention. Check out my reviews of the Scanner Cop movies ( Scanner Cop and Scanner Cop II) and then pick up the set. I haven’t seen it yet, but, hell yeah you just know it’s going to be worth it. Vinegar Syndrome releases always kick ass.


Eye of the Tiger: This terrific mid-1980’s action flick stars Gary Busey, just before he became a big deal movie villain in Lethal Weapon, as an ex-convict/Vietnam War vet who returns to his Midwest small town live and work and whatnot and finds out that the place is overrun by a scumbag biker gang lead by the always awesome and brilliant William Smith. The perpetually great Yaphet Kotto is also in it, and the movie is just chock full of action that you are not expecting. I know when I first saw it I was expecting one kind of movie and, holy shit, it’s something else entirely. The fine folks at Kino Lorber are behind this Blu-ray release, which, sadly, doesn’t have any special features on it, but the movie is worth the price tag. I mean, yeah, the world would be a much better place if we had a full on Gary Busey commentary track talking about the movie, but maybe that will happen in the future if this Blu-ray is a mega success. I think I’m going to have to review this at some point.


Deadly Force: Mission Budapest: The fine folks at Shout! Factory are behind this release of some sort of action flick that features the always great Milla Jovovich. It was originally called The Rookies, but for some reason the title was changed (I like the new title because it sounds more “action movie” but, at the same time, it’s pretty generic and makes it seem like it’s part of a franchise, which, as far as I can tell, it isn’t). Anyway, apparently, it got some sort of big hooha release in China and is also a comedy, so who knows if it’s good or not (some of the reviews I’ve seen for it have been pretty scathing, mostly because the reviewers didn’t think it was funny and the action was substandard, whatever the hell that means). Definitely worth a rental based solely on the trailer and the fact that Shout! Factory is releasing it. Anyone out there see this, either under the new title or as The Rookies? Anyone at all?


Next Issue: It’s the low budget action flick Out for Blood starring Don “The Dragon” Wilson!


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Well, I think that’ll be about it for now. Don’t forget to sign up with disqus if you want to comment on this article and any other 411 article. You know you want to, so just go do it.

B-movies rule. Always remember that.

The Art of War II: Betrayal

Wesley Snipes– Neil Shaw
Lochlyn Munro– Garret
Athena Karkanis– Heather
Winston Rekert– Reverend Tim
Ryan McDonald– Alex
Rachel Hayward– Carlson

(check out the rest of the cast here)

Directed by Josef Rusnak
Screenplay by Keith Shaw and Jason Bourque

Distributed by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and Stage 6 Films

Rated R for violence, brief language, and some sexual imagery
Runtime– 103 minutes

Buy it here. You can also watch it on imdb and Tubi TV.