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!