The Warrior’s Way

Movie Information

The Story: A swordsman must flee to the Wild West from his former clan in the far East when he refuses to kill an infant, who just so happens to be the last of his clan's sworn enemies. The Lowdown: An incredibly stylized, fanciful take on the action film that's pure moviemaking.
Score:

Genre: Stylized Action/Fantasy
Director: Sngmoo Lee
Starring: Dong-gun Jang, Kate Bosworth, Geoffrey Rush, Danny Huston, Tony Cox
Rated: R

I’m not sure who this movie was made for. I could maybe recommend The Warrior’s Way to a handful of people (including co-critic Ken Hanke). If you can imagine a kung-fu flick made by Baz Luhrmann and Sergio Leone, then you would start to get an idea of the world in which the film operates. You would also get a good idea of whether or not this movie is for you.

The film marks the American debuts of South Korean director Sngmoo Lee and actor Dong-gun Jang. Thankfully, The Warrior’s Way is not some American-ized rehash of Ji-woon Kim’s “Oriental Western” The Good, The Bad, The Weird, which came out earlier this year, nor is it the stiff-backed movie its ponderous title might suggest. The Luhrmann comparison is the most apt, because—while the film isn’t as frantic as Moulin Rouge! (2001)—its color palette and sensibilities are similar. But above all, The Warrior’s Way is a movie. Any sense of realism is abandoned in favor of a fanciful action yarn that oozes style.

It is, however, an approach that takes getting used to. The film’s opening, with its CGI-painted backgrounds and occasional titles that float across the screen (in Comic Sans, the world’s most garish font, nonetheless) makes the whole thing look a bit cheap. But as the film progresses—and as long as you’re able to give yourself up to the world it’s created—The Warrior’s Way can be a pretty impressive, unique piece of action filmmaking.

As far as plot goes, we have our hero Yang (Dong-gun Jang), the world’s greatest swordsman (so we’re told), fleeing his former clan in the East after he refuses to murder an infant who is the last of their enemies. Yang ends up in a ramshackle town in the middle of the American West, inhabited by a Fellini-esque carnival and a ragtag group of settlers. There, he meets Lynne (Kate Bosworth, showing some personality for the first time in her career), whose family was murdered years ago by the nefarious Colonel (Danny Huston, in a pretty juicy villain role), whom she disfigured with a skillet full of hot potatoes (à la Tyler Perry).

Yang—arriving in this peculiar and fantasticated world with the infant he saved—begins to learn what it means to be a normal person and not an emotionless killer. On paper, this is nothing special, but the film goes about it in a charming, almost genteel way. But don’t let that fool you, the film remains a pretty violent, bloody affair, but one that’s handled in an overtly stylized—and almost poetic—fashion. In all, it’s a playful take on the action movie, and for those who can handle a lack of gritty realism with their actioners, look no further. Considering that it opened in a dismal ninth place among the weekend’s new offerings at the box office, it would probably be a good idea to take that look with all possible speed. Rated R for strong bloody violence.

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7 thoughts on “The Warrior’s Way

  1. Justin Souther

    How does Geoffrey Rush fare here?

    He gets a good bit of scenery chewing in, but I can’t shake the feeling he’s just a bit underused.

  2. Dread P. Roberts

    If you can imagine a kung-fu flick made by Baz Luhrmann and Sergio Leone, then you would start to get an idea of the world in which the film operates. You would also get a good idea of whether or not this movie is for you.

    That definitely sounds like it’s right up my alley.

    From my perspective, this seems like a rather glowing endorsment of the The Warrior’s Way. It reads much more like a five-star review, than a three and a half one. I’m actually much more interested in seeing thie movie than what I was prior to reading this review.

  3. Sean Williams

    I’d be curious to hear Mr. Hanke’s opinion of this one.

    Personally, I think martial arts movies are the new musicals: they’ve abandoned all pretense of realism in favor of total stylization. If only Rouben Mamoulian had teamed up with Bruce Lee to create The Dragon Enters Tonight.

    As nearly as I can judge from the trailer, this whole movie seems to cross the line multiple times: the C.G.I. sunsets are so garish they become beautiful; the scene of ninja paratroopers descending on the rooftops in perfect synchronization is so hilariously stupid it becomes awe-inspiring… Also, you can never go wrong with homages to Lone Wolf and Cub.

  4. Ken Hanke

    I said the martial arts film was the new musical film back when Shanghai Knights came out. I’m not sure if the martial arts film is quite the force to be reckoned with it was a few years ago.

    As for my take on The Warrior’s Way I fear it got away from me. Now, we’ll have wait for the DVD, which could be any moment based on how it tanked.

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