December 16th, 2010

The Warrior’s Way 

Director: Sngmoo Lee | Run time: 100 min

Film review by Delme Stephenson

First of all don’t worry. By the time I’ve finished writing this. It will have left your local cinema (…if it was ever there in the first place). You’ll probably catch it on cable or DVD (just to think I watched it a week ago). You’ll possibly watch it at a time when you don’t want to think or do anything except click a couple of buttons on your remote. If you want to throw away a 100 minutes of your time then ‘The Warrior’s Way’ is perfect. However there are plenty of films that have attempted this concept and have done it well. Unfortunately ‘The Warrior’s Way’ is not one of them.

‘The Warrior’s Way’ is an action fantasy film that draws on numerous sources for inspiration. It is first and foremost a Western that pays homage to Sergio Leone’s interpretation of the genre. It can most likely be classified as a Neo-Western. However it is also takes from the martial arts genre, elements of the Mad Max films (which are based upon the concept of the Western) and has the aesthetic feel of recent comic-to-film translations such as ‘Sin City’ and ‘300’, except ‘The Warrior’s Way’ has employed this with fantastically cheap CGI.

It’s an odd cocktail of a film (how could it not be?). In all honesty there are some well executed sequences. It has a well intentioned concept with some interesting ideas bouncing around, except it doesn’t really work or coalesce. By all means if you are curious and you have the time then press play, however the sources it derives its inspiration from such as ‘Shogun Assassin’ to ‘The Good the Bad and the Ugly’ are worthier enterprises and are probably worth revisiting.

Set in the 19th century, the film centres on a warrior-assassin named Yang (Dong-gun Jang) who flees his homeland with the last member of an enemy clan - a baby which he refused to kill upon his Master’s orders. We find him roaming the old American West and eventually finding refuge in a dilapidated town where he must protect the townsfolk, including Kate Bosworth and Geoffrey Rush, and eventually stop his enemies from taking their revenge. 

Thirty minutes into the film I feel like saying to my friend that perhaps we should watch ‘Monsters’ or ‘The American’ - both of which I’d seen and admired. It might shift up a gear: it might get better, more ambitious and less ridiculous. Perhaps it might find itself…that perfect balance of homage and innovation. I stay quiet and hope for the best. Then I start to think about how I got into this predicament.

It was definitely the trailer. The Warrior postures himself ready for battle against a rival, his hair well groomed. ‘He was a legend born on the battlefield’ states the voiceover. You have to admit powerful words, right? Cut to an army of masked Ninjas who impressively skyrocket into the air from seemingly nowhere and surround the lone Warrior, this is all done against a well-formed computer generated background. We then have more posturing from our hero. It doesn’t look to bad (the film and his hair). Back to the trailer; there’s a shot of the baby, he’s refused to kill (cute). The voiceover continues ‘Until the day he refused his mission’. The warrior puts his sword back into its sheath. This dude’s pretty cool. Now he’s on a ship probably sailing away to some place around the Asia-Pacific region where his enemies can’t find him and the little baby. But I know what’s going to happen they’ll find him. They always do. They can’t fool me! Then the credibility factor kicks in. The titles on the screen state it’s from the producer of ‘Lord of the Rings’. The music kicks into gear. Now the Warrior is walking with the baby across a desert. Okay that’s strange. He’s in the Wild West of America. Okay. But then wait a minute isn’t that Oscar winner Geoffrey Rush? Isn’t that Kate Bosworth? The credibility factor has increased somewhat and so has the film’s ambition. Anyway there are more sequences that I can only describe as ‘cool’, as the Warrior does his thing (flicks his hair, squints and slices). Titles pop up in between action sequences, ‘One warrior… caught between two worlds’, you realise there’s going to be one big colossal fight at the end and it’s going to be between loads of Ninjas and Cowboys. So ‘This December’, cue the next title ‘To protect a target… a hero will stand’. In between these titles we have the Warrior dispatching various baddies in possibly very exciting ways. Yep. I’m sold. I’ am going to see this.

And that’s how I got caught watching ‘The Warrior’s Way’. I feel somewhat duped. It happens. Great trailer: shame about the film. It could have really worked, but it didn’t. That’s life. That’s a movie for you. What a waste of a talented cast (Geoffrey Rush go stand in the corner! Now!). After the film I ask my mate what he thought of the film, he said he’s thinking of growing his hair. I ask what conditioner he’s thinking of using. He smiles, looks ahead and shrugs. We walk to the pub.

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