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The Warrior’s Way is some sort of amazing disaster, a bizarre hybrid of genre, filming techniques, moods, themes and pace. I would not go quite as far to deem it as “so bad it’s good,” though it certainly carries some sort of campy allure I haven’t seen since last 2009’s Viking/alien invasion mash-up Outlander. This martial arts Western does, however, play more like an initial idea than a fully realized movie and unfortunately carries more than enough similarities to be lumped in with the video game genre — not the most favourable association.
The faults of a first time director/screenwriter shine through at numerous turns throughout the running time and though Korean filmmaker Sngmoo Lee has style out the wazoo, that seems to be all he has going for him at this early stage of his career. The also Korean Dong-gun Jang stars as Yang (the titular warrior) and also puts forth his first “Hollywood” effort (at least as far as I can tell) and like pop singer and actor Rain in the similarly themed Ninja Assassin, his screen presence is rarely potent enough to offset his awkwardness in an English language film.
From there the movie becomes a circus. Literally. Yang is an infamous warrior in his clan who is ordered to eradicate the existence of a rival gang by killing the last surviving member; a cute little baby. After not surprisingly being unable to complete his morally repugnant mission, he flees with the child to a Western town inhabited by circus folk, bandits and any other number of odd characters (including Kate Bosworth as a knife thrower and Geoffrey Rush as a slovenly drunk). But of course Yang’s past comes looking for him and the battle between cowboys and ninjas commences. Yee ha!
Rush and character actors Brian Cox and Danny Huston know the type of movie they’re in and ham it up like nobody’s business. Bosworth knows what kind of movie she’s in but is more cringingly obnoxious than campy. Her awful accent is a twisted marriage of Deep South and ol’ timey English and is something for which even a very lucky bustier cannot compensate. At 100 minutes, The Warrior’s Way is also far too long. Shaving anywhere from 20-25 minutes from the length could have helped it become more a flash of strange more than a stretch of bizarre. With all of the principle characters more or less partaking in the final East versus West showdown when the minutes do finally run out, there is some bloody fun to be had though between the awkward shifts throughout and dull downtimes, but an enjoyable final rumble is simply not able to do the job.
Hopefully, with this movie being dumped in the post-Thanksgiving frame, both director Lee and actor Jang get another chance to strut their stuff in a Hollywood production, because the talent does exists even if it needs some significant polishing. Hard-core martial arts fans may find something to admire amidst the chaos of The Warrior’s Way, but I can hardly imagine even an iota of mainstream love for this action fantasy. Though I hate to say it, especially after being enticed by the premise and trailers, the way is something our baby-loving hero was never able to find.
The Warriors Way
Directed by: Sngmoo Lee
Written by: Sngmoo Lee
Starring: Don-gun Yang, Kate Bosworth, Geoffrey Rush, Danny Huston