December 5, 2010

Movie Review: The Warrior's Way

warriorsway1_largeThis is certainly an odd movie and one that I was rather surprised to see get a wide release. No matter how good or how bad it turned out to be I could not seeing it being a hit on the national stage. With that said, I am very glad to see it having gotten the opportunity to make the attempt. I eagerly went in hoping to see an enjoyably odd genre mash up. Unfortunately, The Warrior's Way did not live up to my expectations. I did enjoy it but not nearly as good as I had hoped it would be.

The movie crosses The Good the Bad and the Ugly and Lone Wolf and Cub, with a result that is something akin to Sukiyaki Western Django while not being as good as any. The movie is Sngmoo Lee's debut feature as a writer/director and he has taken an interesting route with this particular East meets West genre mash up. It has stylishly simplistic look that takes full advantage of the digital backlot. He eschewed the use of sets in favor of a green screen and a special effects team. The result has its moments so long as you don't think about it. The moment you try to introduce logic, things really begin to fall apart. Of course, that is also not without its charms.

The Warrior's Way centers on Yang (Jang Dong Gun), a member of the Sad Flutes clan of assassins. He desires to be the best swordsman in the world. To do this he also must kill everyone in a rival clan. The problem arises from the final person he has to kill being a baby girl. The heartless killer may have a heart after all. Instead of killing the baby, he takes her and flees the country. He comes to America to find an old friend who lives with a carnie community in a small rundown town in the old west.


He finds that his friend has died. Yang decides to take over his friend's laundry business and quickly finds a new life and renewed purpose with this ragtag collection of clowns and circus folk led by 8-Ball (Tony Cox. He finds a potential love interest in Lynne (Kate Bosworth), a damaged young woman who is trying to be a knife thrower. Another notable member is Ron (Geoffrey Rush), the town drunk.

Of course nothing can be simple. Movies like this require bad guys. That role is filled by Danny Huston as an evil Colonel who has a history with this town. Eventually his past is made known and it leads to the Sad Flutes learning where Yang went. All of this leads up to a final action setpiece where our hero must lead the town in a stand against evil.

I really wanted to like this movie a lot. However, it does have a nice pace and some interesting moments and a surreal look, but it never goes to the next level. The action is disappointing as there is not that much of it. The sword fights are not really fights at all, and considering how little our hero says, this movie has an awful lot of talking in it.


The performances are middling at best. Jang Dong Gun does a good job as the mostly silent hero, I need to look up more of his work. Geoffrey Rush hams it up as the drunk with a couple of funny moments, bu he has very little material to really work with. Danny Huston is fine as the villain, but he really doesn't do all that much. Then there is Kate Bosworth with her "Golly Gee" reactions and odd Southern speak. Her performance felt forced and awkward.

I like the mash up of martial arts and the old west. I must say I enjoyed it more in Shanghai Noon and Sukiyaki Western Django (not really martial arts, but East and West together). The look works but the narrative is messy and the melding of Lynne's and Yang's stories do not mesh all that well. When the big fight does come the colorful townsfolk are pushed to the background when they should be more up front. Then there is the way the issues are escalated, I do not feel that the stakes were high enough. Rather, the stakes were high but it never felt that way, thus lessening the overall impact. Then the end comes, sure it looks kind of cool, but it makes no sense considering what had just happened.

Bottomline. Good concept, decent cast, interesting look, could have used a rewrite or two. Still, I would gladly watch it again so it does have that going for it.

Mildly Recommended.

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