Korean and Chinese Wuxia films. Japanese Jidai Geki films. Spaghetti Westerns. Kimchi Westerns. Sukiyaki Westerns. Do you like those oddball genres? How do you feel about the genre-busting popcorn films that pay tribute to those movies such as Kim Ji-Woon’s “The Good The Bad The Weird” and Takashi Miike’s “Sukiyaki Western Django”? If you do like those type of hybrids, then you may be right at home with director Sngmoo Lee’s “The Warrior’s Way”. It has more of a Korean swordplay epic’s mood and tone with the weird mix of Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns. Yes, it is another attempt at another genre-busting extravaganza, and while I know it will be shunned by most critics, I have to say the film had its charms and it proved to be quite entertaining.
A lone master swordsman called Yang (Korean actor Jang Dong-gun, Springtime) is the Sad Flute clan’s most dangerous assassin. He is precise and cold in the execution of the kill. One day, after all that stands between him and glory is a lone royal infant, Yang freezes and instead flees with the child and becomes her protector. Leaving his land, Yang flees to the West where he intends to hide in a broken town with its broken folk. He learns to appreciate a simple life and he forges a friendship with a circus troup led by Eight Ball (Tony Cox), a knife thrower named Lynne (Kate Bosworth), the town drunk (Geoffrey Rush) and other folks in isolation. Yang begins to charm Lynne with his brooding manner and even the townsfolk learn to appreciate his low-key mannerisms, and how he does laundry. But the past is about to catch up to Yang when a disfigured colonel (Danny Huston) threatens his newfound way of life as his own clan led by Saddest Flute (Ti Lung) is hell-bent on killing him for his betrayal.
We’ve all seen this story before, the brooding killer who finds a new reason to live and a heart that encourages compassion and “The Warrior‘s Way“ offers nothing new in terms of intricacies to plotting. What the direction does have a lot of is loads of style and action; this style and action sequences pays tribute to all the Asian films that you’ve grown to love and the westerns that Sergio Leone had made popular in the 60’s. Leone’s classics were inspired by Japanese Jidai Geki films in the first place so this attempt at an Asian-wuxia-western hybrid is no sin. In fact, I welcome it; it is about time that Asian cinema is recognized for their contributions to global cinema. Homages to Japanese movies such as “Yojimbo”, “Sukiyaki Western Django”, Korea‘s “Shadowless Sword” and even China‘s “House of Flying Daggers” are abundant in the film. The film is also rich with Leone’s spaghetti western attitude; if you are a fan of those movies you’ll appreciate what the film is trying to express.
The tributes to such Korean wuxia films and even to Yuen Woo-Ping/Tsui Hark epics are very visible in the film’s execution. There is some wirework, freeze frames and mild slow motion in the action scenes. From a visual point of view, the film succeeds, the film looks insanely cool as our characters are in front of a CGI-rendered environment, that has that western feel. I have mixed feelings about its environment since it looked too perfect at times but I guess I can take it. The cinematography by Korean artist Woo-Hyung Kim is fitting to the film’s themes and motifs, it does look rather fake at some areas but it mimics the appearance of illustrations/paintings we see in graphic novels. The film has a narration (I believe by Geoffrey Rush) going as the story unfolds, some details are told as if it was in the past, giving it an aura of mystery about it. The story is simple, it has all the qualities of an East meets West plot, with the East learning as much as he shares with his newfound Western friends.
I guess for a movie like this to succeed, the action sequences will have to deliver and they do in a sense. The swordplay in the film were pretty quick as it mimics the aura and mysticism of magical artistry. The action was more shown in style and to express the idea that a great swordsman is as quick as a gunslinger with the draw. They were nicely done, albeit comes a little too close to becoming too stylized. But quite honestly, it is just so much fun seeing swordsmen take on gun-toting outlaws. The blood effects mimicked the ones seen in Korean Wuxia films, it sprays but not as “splattery” as those seen in samurai movies. The sword versus guns area was touched upon and what gave the film its positive points is the fact that Jang Dong-Gun fit the role of a brooding warrior. His silent manners were convincing and that I had no problems buying into his character.
The characters were pretty stereotypical for a film like this. Kate Bosworth’s character may well be a tribute to the strong female character seen in westerns. She is spunky, careless and yet she is charming; she proves to be the light in Yang’s life, as he also proves to be hers. Her links to the disfigured colonel was one of the film’s more effective subplots and Geoffrey’s Rush’s drunken character embodies another warrior that may become Yang’s parallel in the future if he stays with the one he holds dear. The film does deliver its lines with a straight face, but it maintains that somewhat humorous touches in some scenes.
“The Warrior’s Way” is low on storytelling and allows its style, action sequences, mood and its characters take center stage. It does pay off with a good climactic encounter, it wasn’t groundbreaking but it did the deed in terms of entertainment. Ninjas flying, limbs flying, Gatling guns and six-shooters--hey, the film is a lot of fun to see in terms of action and visual style. As with many other films of this kind, it is for an intended audience; and considering my love for Asian cinema, I guess I am one of them.
*1/2 out of **** "The Warrior's Way" is a silly, cheap, dumb CGI laden actioner that tries to mix the genres of Western and Samurai variety; as a few before it have. As much as I love drunk cowboys and keen badass Asians fighting alongside each-other from time-to-time, you still need to work around the clichés and create a unique, fun ride if you want to impress this movie-goer; or anyone else who's genuinely intelligent, for the matter. This film was made without wit, and … more
“The Warrior’s Way” combines the brutal violence of a martial arts saga, the nostalgic lure of an old west drama, and the visual appeal of a living comic book. And yet, in trying to be all those things, it ends up being none of them; what was supposed to be an edgy East-meets-West fusion is in fact an unexplainable, unpleasant mishmash of genres that really don’t belong together. It’s an oddity, an otherworldly import that never aims to be funny but somehow can get … more
The Warrior's Way, a visually-stunning modern martial arts western starring Korean actor Dong-gun Jang who plays an Asian warrior assassin forced to hide in a small town in the American Badlands. Rounding out the ensemble cast are Kate Bosworth (Superman Returns), Oscar®-winner Geoffrey Rush (Shine), Danny Huston (The Kingdom), and Tony Cox (The Hustle).The fantasy action film was written and directed by newcomer Sngmoo Lee, and is being produced by Barrie M. Osborne (Lord of the Rings), Jooick Lee (Seven Swords) and Michael Peyser (Hackers).