The Warrior’s Way (2010)

the warriors way

“You came to me in order to be strong. I have made you the strongest.”

The Scoop: 2010 R, Directed by Sngmoo Lee and Starring Jang Dong Gun, Kate Bosworth and Geoffrey Rush

Tagline: The way of honor. The way of courage.  The way of survival.

Summary Capsule: Steampunk outlaw cowboys take on mortal kombat ninjas when a lone swordsman goes rogue to defend a baby from his murderous clan.

Mike’s rating: Forecast predicts a 92% chance of ninjas. People are advised to stay indoors.

Mike’s review: The whole “martial arts in the wild west” genre, while not exactly thoroughly tread upon ground, has been done before (see Kung Fu). The Warrior’s Way, on the other hand, is the first movie to attempt this particular mash-up within the trappings of the recent comic book visual style of films like 300 and Sin City. The writers of the story have done their best to approach the story as a fairy tale, which makes from some very broad strokes and bare-bones storytelling. The final result is a pretty entertaining slash-fest which falls just a few steps shy of the moral it’s aiming for.

The movie opens in feudal Japan where a swordsman is seen killing ninjas with all the emotional attachment of a man doing his taxes. When the man (named Yang) kills the final opponent, it’s revealed that he has now won the title of….wait for it…THE GREATEST SWORDSMAN IN THE HISTORY OF MANKIND. He needs only to kill one more member of the rival clan he has just slaughtered to complete his mission and end a centuries-long feud between ninja clans. When the final clan member turns out to be a laughing baby girl, however, Yang refuses to kill her and finds that he’s made it to the top of his own clan’s to-do list. He flees to America and ends up taking refuge in Lode, a dying western town in the middle of the dust bowl, where the circus came to town and never left. He reopens the laundry house of his old friend and begins to carve out a life among the residents of Lode, particularly a beautiful novice knife-thrower (Bosworth). When a group of outlaws rides into town and Yang defends his new home by setting his sword for “puree”, he gives away his position to his clan who comes looking for him. Now with ninjas and outlaws looking to kill everything that moves, can the little laughing baby be saved? Perhaps you missed the whole GREATEST SWORDSMAN IN THE HISTORY OF MANKIND part of the equation.

Visually, TWW is great. The colorful skylines and ethereal backdrops give an epic feel to the proceedings. The action scenes and fight choreography are are almost poetic as ninjas float through the air and are soundly cut down in droves. These scenes are easily where the film is strongest and they don’t disappoint. The most praise, apart from the digital rendering, should go to the costume design. There’s a certain steampunk sensibility running through this “western meets eastern” production that the sub/pop culture geek in me can’t help but find pretty cool. Everybody in the film, from the ninjas, to the outlaws, to the denizens of Lode, just look cool. The acting is good, but not great. Geoffrey Rush doesn’t get nearly enough screen time as a drunken former gunfighter, and Bosworth’s character veers into screechingly obnoxious territory a little too often. Danny Huston nearly steals the show as The Colonel, the leader of the requisite gang of outlaws. Finally, Jang Dong Gun has a subtlety and nuance to his acting that takes the movie above the typical “action movie” conceit. The story slows down considerably towards the middle without many action sequences to begin with, so those viewers craving some tasty violence may get a tad squirelly, but there’s more than enough action in the last hour to justify the slow start. One major gripe: considering how heavily the whole “violence is bad” moral is played up, the stylistic (and amazingly bloody) fight sequences that are so beautifully shot and reveled in, seem a tad hypocritical. Also that “Ninjas…damn” line from the trailer wasn’t even in the movie! I call shenanigans!

Ultimately, The Warriors Way is entertaining, funny, emotional, action -packed and colorful, but never really as deep or as thought-provoking as it aims for. It falls squarely into the “harmless” column of movies that you’ll want to stay on when you happen on it while channel surfing, and definitely worth adding to your Netflix queue. Of course I probably didn’t have to go very far beyond “Cowboys vs Ninjas” before you were all on board, huh?

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

It’ll shoot the fleas off a dog’s back at 500 yards, Tannen, and it’s pointed straight at your head!

Intermission!

  •  South Korean actor Jang Dong Gun starred in two record-breaking box office hits prior to making The Warrior’s Way. One of these films was Friend, the highest grossing Korean film at the time in which he gained widespread critical acclaim for his portrayal of a troubled high school student who chooses the life of organized crime. This role paved the way for his turn as Jin-Tae Lee in Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War, about the Korean War, which again shattered box office records. Having achieved star status throughout Asia, Jang took on two more high-profile roles. Golden Globe nominated film The Promise was a $30 million pan-Asian production by the Cannes Film Festival winning director Chen Kaige, in which Jang plays the leading role opposite Hiroyuki Sanada and Cecilia Cheung. Typhoon by director Kwak Kyung-taek, had Jang star as a modern-day pirate who has been betrayed by both North and South Korea.
  • Scott Reynolds did some re-writing on the script, mostly concentrated on some action sequences and a lot of the dialogue for the actors. Reynolds was especially proud of some of the evil lines he wrote for The Colonel.
  • The painting in the saloon is a parody of Edouard Manet’s famous “Dejeuner Sur L’Herbe”, with the setting changed to the prairies, and buffaloes and teepees in the background.
  • That hotel door gag was pretty good.

Groovy Quotes

Ron: Okay, settle down. Y’all got your ears open? This here’s a story about a sad flute, a laughing baby, a weeping sword, and a warrior with empty eyes.

Saddest Flute: You came to me in order to be strong. I have made you the strongest.

Saddest Flute: He may burn his past, but he will pay for his betrayal.

Ron: We are what we are. If you truly love something or somebody, laundry-man, you get as far away from ’em as possible. We’re sand. They’re flowers.

The Colonel: I once strung a man up by his hamstrings for serving me a steak well done.

Yang: Here…here…and here. These places…fastest way to kill your enemy.
Lynne: I’ll remember.

If You Liked This Movie, Try These:
  • Kung Fu
  • 300
  • Seven Samurai

4 comments

  1. I’ve been wondering for a while whether I should watch this. I’ll definitely check it out now.

  2. Danny Huston wasn’t Denethor, that’s John Noble. Danny Huston played Stryker in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and the lead vampire in 30 Days of Night

  3. Watched it! Thought it was pretty darn good, all things considered. I thought the ending was a tad iffy – there was a deleted scene in the extras that I thought should have been kept in; would have made the wrap-up better – but overall, not bad. I can’t understand why it failed at the box office.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s