Starring Jang Dong-gun, Kate Bosworth, Geoffrey Rush, Tony Cox, Danny Huston, and Ti Lung
Fight Choreography by Yuji Shimimura and Kensuke Sonomura
Directed by Sngmoo Lee
The Warrior’s way tries to combine cutting edge special effects with a traditional story featuring a multitude of great actors and introducing western audiences to a new talent in Jang Dong-Gun. First time director Sngmoo Lee takes the helm to create an East meets West film.
It’s a crying shame every talent listed above wasted their time. Especially Ti Lung, but more on him later.
The film follows the exploits of Yang (Dong-Gun) the greatest swordsman in the world, who is a member of the Sad Flute assassins. They are at war with a rival clan, and do the job of wiping the clan out, the last member being a baby. Yang is given the mission by Saddest Flute (Ti Lung) to kill this baby, but in a moment of compassion Yang cannot, and by doing so becomes an enemy within his clan. Yang escapes to the United States with the child, and winds up in the small desert town of Lode, where a friend of his resides. Of course his friend is long dead, killed by a group of outlaw marauders led by The Colonel (Huston). The townspeople are a motley crew of people, starting with the town drunk Ronald, who may be far more deadly than anyone knows, 8 Ball (Cox) the leader of the local circus who also more or less leads the people, and Lynne (Bosworth), a fiery redhead who seeks to get her revenge on the Colonel for killer her family, but also takes an interest in Yang. The Colonel soon starts to hurt the people Yang cares about, and Yang knows what will happen if he draws his sword: The Sad Flutes will come ( I guess they figure this out using telepathy) and the entire town will be in far more danger than from that of a bunch of marauders…
The story here is dirt simple, and doesn’t really allow the actors to escape being merely caricatures of western films. Geoffrey Rush does his best, but was he really needed? Kate Bosworth does a pretty good job even though she’s a bit shaky at the beginning, and Jang Dong-Gun does what he can, but isn’t given much to work with or even much to say. Danny Huston chews the screen as the baddie, but he’s not enough of one even though he inhabits the majority of the film as the main villain. Ti Lung as Saddest Flute basically just showed up. This is the great Ti Lung, veteran and star of dozens of Shaw Brothers films like Five Shaolin Masters, The Water Margin, All Men are Brothers, and so many more, and this is what they managed to give him? Basically a cameo appearance, even though he’s a far greater threat than The Colonel? That’s just yet another major misstep this film takes. The effects work on the backgrounds and movements remind me of Bunraku, but there’s a charm that film had that I don’t see here. That’s not to say that Sngmoo Lee doesn’t present some great visual moments. He does, but the weak story can’t make up for it, and the art of the visuals is ruined since it looks like a video game in some sequences.
The fights are well done and look good, and are over in seconds, just as in many Japanese samurai films, and the final fight between the town, outlaws and assassins is well done and fun, but at the same time so very fake with all of the effects work. I think simple wire work would have been more…real than the CGI they presented. This is more of a swords film done anime style than anything else, and screams CGI in far too many places. Maybe that’s someone else’s cup of tea, but not mine.
(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best):
CHOREOGRAPHY: (3) The choreography is all in the CGI, which looks passable one moment to downright weak the next. There were a few cool moments, like the hallway fight between Yang and the outlaws toward the end, but even that came off pretty weak.
STUNTWORK: (2) It’s hard to say just what the stuntmen did since everything looked CGI, so there wasn’t much for them to do except to hang off of the occasion wire.
STAR POWER: (8) The film has its stars, I’ll give it that. I don’t know what they paid to get an actor of Geoffrey Rush’s caliber, but I’ll wager it was a kings’ ransom, and Kate Bosworth appears in film regularly. Jang Dong-Gun is a gifted actor with several new films on the way.
FINAL GRADE: (3) The Warrior’s Way is a barely mediocre film that fails because the story is too weak, and the video game style visuals tries to make up for it, and that’s the main problem. That, and they had Ti Lung and wasted him, which is unforgivable.
NEXT: Cliff Lok will take on a group of Shaolin assassins with Choy Lay Fut!
“The effects work on the backgrounds and movements remind me of Bunraku, but there’s a charm that film had that I don’t see here.”
That’s funny, I would claim the exact opposite. Bunraku left me utterly cold and annoyed, whereas Warrior’s Way I found fascinating and original, if flawed. Maybe it comes down to which you see first? (I saw Warriors Way first, Bunraku many months later, which I think is the reverse from you).
(I’m afraid that I didn’t think much of Bunraku myself). I didn’t think much of this one either. I agree with you – a waste of talent
I loved watching at Jang Dong-gun. That good-looking rascal had a special appeal as far as I am concerned. The way I relax and get away from the stress of business is watching martial arts movies. I found this one ok to pass time. Jang Dong-gun is fine.
I got no problem with looking at Jang Gon Gun for a couple of hours. I just wish that this film had used him and the other cast members better, that’s all.
I understand your concern. Your concern is noteworthy, It seems to me that there are multitudes manufacturing new martial arts films. It seems that some of those folks that formulate the scripts just throw “stuff” together. Perhaps because martial arts is so popular these days, many want to get in on the money-making aspect without regard to the artistic and cultural dimensions. I appreciate all of your comments because you have superior critical thinking skills. Plus your common sense is cold-blooded. Peace be with you. Make it a Super Day. Stay Strong.
Interestingly, though, if you check out the special features, this is the director’s passion project – he worked on it for something like 10 years. He’s primarily a professor of cultural studies (or something like that, my memory on this is hazy) and this was his first stab at a film, which he did primarily because he thought MA films has lost their artistic flair and content. As much as I kind-of enjoyed this movie, though, the final product is a perfect case study for why folks with too much theory and not enough hands-on contextual experience shouldn’t be given money and a camera just because they can talk a good talk. WARRIOR’S WAY is the kind of film one gets when the filmmaker doesn’t understand that the medium has already eaten and shat out most of what he’s sticking in there. Like when literary darling Philip Roth wrote that alternate history book (HISTORY OF AMERICA) and then in response to critics was like “I didn’t know anyone had ever done that before! And you’re telling me it’s an entire sub-genre?!?” I look at WARRIOR’S WAY and while it was some interesting and unique elements, they don’t really blend, or cohere, and in piecemeal most of the elements have been seen before, usually in even shittier fare like NINJA ASSASSIN or whatever.
This is a very powerful comment filled with wisdom; and, thank you for sharing the film maker’s history. I have a few individuals with their Ph.D.’s that sit on my “honorary planning advisory committee” for my Pilot, Model and Demonstration Initiative for at risk children and youth. Funders want “demonstrated sufficient management capacity” in addition to capable and “strong” internal infrastructure. Funders want to see that the project has engaged in scientific / research based fact-finding missions (hard-core empirical data.) Those individuals with strong educational credentials sometimes lose “something” in the mix because they are extremely smart. Usually, those folks can come up with an Award Winning Model. Notice I said “usually.” I balance my Board out with folks from the inner-city, the poverty community and a cross section of each tradition and industry. A combination of individuals who are affluent, influential and weatlhy and can get things done with a phone call in my humble opinion makes an initiative or project work. Those folks will also poll the broad array of demographic populations and given geographic areas to see what will sell in today’s maket place. This film is on Netflix; and, I watch it often because I love looking at and admiring beautiful men. I assembled a consortium of females who wanted to start or expand their own businesses. I love talking to them about marital arts films. Do you know what sells them on martial arts films? Now for this group which is a cross section also–they love “beautiful men” and those men’s bodies. I loved Ninja Assassin because of Rain who is also a wonderful entertainer.
Comments are closed.