The Warrior's Way
2010, R, 100 min. Directed by Sngmoo Lee. Starring Jang Dong-gun, Kate Bosworth, Geoffrey Rush, Danny Huston, Tony Cox, Ti Lung, Nic Sampson, Ryan Richards.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Dec. 10, 2010
Although it’s a strange, not-quite-successful but visually entertaining attempt to merge the tropes of the classic American Western with those of the sword-wielding chopsocky genre, The Warrior's Way is drained of much of its presumed power by a distinct "been there, seen that" vibe. Director Kim Ji-woon (who, like Sngmoo Lee, emerged from the thriving South Korean film industry) already finessed this sort of stylistic collision with 2008's The Good, the Bad, the Weird. Even Takashi Miike, years ago, joined the duster-wearing, sharp weapon-and-six-shooter-wielding fray (with Quentin Tarantino, not surprisingly, in tow) for 2007's Sukiyaki Western Django. It goes back further than that, of course: Without Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo and Seven Samurai, there would be no A Fistful of Dollars or The Magnificent Seven. All of the aforementioned rely, to one degree or another, on special effects to achieve their all-encompassing stylistic immersion, but The Warrior's Way goes overboard to a significantly silly degree and capsizes due to a veritable tsunami of CGI. Granted, ninjas are involved, but does the world of fantastic filmmaking really need another slo-mo shot of a bullet or blade speeding toward its intended target? Enough already. Arterial blood sprays do not equal passion, and although first-time director Lee fills every single frame with enough eye candy to drive a person blind – you could remove the human cast entirely and the remaining sunsets alone would make for grand, trippy fun – it’s ultimately too much of a good thing. Yang (Jang) is an assassin on the lam who is forced into self-imposed exile in the old American West when he refuses to kill his rival clan's only surviving member (a child). Jang has cheekbones that look like leftover props form Tsui Hark's Swordsman II and rogue panache to match; unfortunately, that's not enough to carry this heaving, overwrought pseudo epic. Surrounding the taciturn, archetypal Lone Wolf and Cub-esque character played by South Korean superstar Jang with an English-speaking cast that includes a wildly hammy Rush as the town tosspot does little to offset the film's overall "everything and the kitchen sink" tone. There's so much over-the-top acting going on – Huston's scarred, evil Colonel, Bosworth's knife-fighting, Annie Oakley OD Lynne – that at times it appears the actors attempted to out-act the digital set-pieces they knew would eventually subsume them. Prescient move on their part, but it doesn't quite work. The CGI wins, the actors lose, and we, the audience, are left wishing Stephen Chow would hurry up and make a sequel to Kung Fu Hustle.