Monday, 2 January 2012

The Warrior's Way (2010)

In the late 19th Century an assassin Yang (Jang Dong Gun) is ordered to take the life of the last member of a rival clan. Only when Yang discovers that the last member is still a baby he flees to the American west with the child in hopes of creating a new life in the town of Lode. Only his new found life to disturbed when a disfigured criminal who calls himself The Colonel (Danny Huston) returns to terrorize the townsfolk. To make matters worse Yang's former clan appear in an attempt to rectify Yang's betrayal.

Having seen this film it has been quite a struggle to put into words just how exactly I feel about. However having thought about it for a couple of days now I feel confident enough to put my thoughts in the written word. Here we have a film which is attempting to meld spaghetti western films with Asian martial arts movies. Something we've already seen before in films such as Shanghai Noon and The Stranger And The Gun Fighter. Two films which knew when to play to it's strengths. Sadly that is not the case with The Warrior's Way. As someone who thoroughly enjoys both genre of film, the idea of putting the two together makes complete sense as they compliment each other very well. What the film fails to take into account is that in order to make it work you need a very strong cast, a decent enough story and a director who can bring it all together. 

You would be forgiven in thinking the film has those qualities when you watch the trailer or see the poster. However it is just such an underwhelming experience that I felt nothing but disappointment when the end credits began to roll. First of the all the cast just seem to have zero chemistry. Lead actor Jang Dong-Gun has and I'm not making this up, at least a dozen lines of dialogue throughout the whole movie. Instead choosing to communicate his feelings to the audience with confused looks and ever so subtle smirks which is a shame when you realise this is an actor who has appeared in such Korean cinematic classics Nowhere To Hide, Friend and Taegukgi.

Kate Bosworth plays the love interest Lynne and while I'll give the actress credit for trying her damnedest to look convincing during some action scenes and trying to salvage some kind of connection with her co-star. Sadly not even she can save what was already an underwhelming mess of a film.

Two actors which look like they seem to be enjoying themselves as Geoffrey Rush and Danny Huston. Rush plays the Ron, the town drunkard with a murky past. The character is completely stock but Rush at least looks like he cares about being in the movie as opposed to Bosworth who looks incredibly frustrated for the most part. Like most actors in Hollywood movies, Huston seems to be having a complete ball as The Colonel and had he been in it a little more may have been the only thing to single-handedly save the entire film. Sadly he isn't given enough screen time to do that. Also the film has one of the most surprising casting choices ever.

Ti Lung.

Yes, that one!

He appears in the film as the head of the Ninja clan which Yang had fled. Oh don't worry, the film makers weren't smart enough to give him lots of screen time and well written dialogue. No, they did what any disrespecting Hollywood film would do. Have him appear in short scenes that add sod all to the film's narrative and have a horribly choreographed sword fight with the hero. That's how Hollywood treats legends folks. Kicking him in the balls and having him dance to Justin Beiber while wearing a mankini would have been more dignified.

One can't help but think this film could have been saved if it had been given to a much better director. Sngmoo Lee shows that while he can create a mostly visually pleasing film he can not seem to get good performances from his lead actors or create a film with a tight, well-paced narrative. Speaking of the film's visuals. It seems that the entire thing was shot on a sound stage and uses CGI backgrounds akin to the live-action Sin City which does seem to work more in it's favor as it gives the film an appropriate comic book/anime vibe.

However polishing a turd will only get you so far and not even the martial arts action can help matters. This has to be one of the most lazily choreographed action scenes I've seen this year. Even abominations like Ten Dead Men and Tekken had the decency to have good action. Here we have dull sword play punctuated by slow editing, annoying slow motion and completely devoid of any tension or drama.

If you should ever see a film which sees a popular Asian actor star along side a Hollywood star all the while having a good old adventure fighting dastardly villains and creating a film which is silly overall but incredibly enjoyable then don't watch The Warrior's Way. Instead go watch The Stranger And The Gun Fighter.

1 comment:

  1. I kind of liked Warriors Way, it was cartoonish but it worked for me.

    BTW for those, like me, now interested in The Stranger And The Gun Fighter,Netflix has it under the alternative title: Blood Money. But me first! :)