In “Rogue Assassin,” Jet Li dons the villain suit for the second time since“Lethal Weapon 4,” with Hollywood superstar Mel Gibson in the title role. But in Rogue, Li is of course the lead, alongside Jason Statham of “The Transporter” series. The film follows FBI agent Jack Crawford’s (Statham) vindictive search for the dangerously elusive Rogue (Li), responsible for the murder of Crawford’s partner. When Rogue resurfaced, Crawford didn’t only have his nemesis to think of but also the escalating “turf war between Chinese mob leader Chang (John Lone) and Japanese Yakuza boss Shiro (Ryo Ishibashi).”
The film feasted on the three G’s linked with organized crime: girls, guns, and gore! Characters shouted profanities and insults at every twist and turn, with a brutal detail: decapitation—an unusual form of punishment as far back as the time of the Samurai, the military nobility of pre-industrial Japan.
Rogue Assassin’s theme is reminiscent of the 2000 blockbuster “Romeo Must Die” which launched Li as a bankable Hollywood leading man. He pursued a similar thematic vein in “Kiss of the Dragon” (2001) and “Cradle 2 the Grave” (2003).
Unlike in these 3 films, Li’s superlative Wushu skills were displayed on a bare minimum and an hour 15 minutes late. Yes, Li’s moves on screen are not called “Kung Fu,” but are actually borrowed from “Wushu,” an elegant, dance-like, and almost hypnotic form of Martial arts. Whatever name you want to call Li’s style, it’s a far cry from his brand of fighting found in earlier works such as “Hero,” “The One” and “Fearless.”
But Jet Li still managed to shine in the film with his powerful bearing and magnetic character. A disciple of method acting first taught by the great Constantin Stanislavski, Li plunges into the role so effectively that you’ve actually started to believe that he is Rogue. Or is he who he really says he is?