The Warrior’s Way, written and directed by Sngmoo Lee, is a mixture of a Chinese fantasy, Seven Samurai, a western, an action film and a cartoon. It’s an odd film that doesn’t always work so well. It blends a number of genres in an ambitious attempt to feel unique and different. While I admire Lee’s vision and what he was trying to do, I think he bit off more than he can chew and the end result is a haphazard mess that aside from a few cool fight scenes, doesn’t offer a whole lot.
We open with Yang (played by Dong-gun Jang), a ninja assassin who has managed to slay nearly everyone in his rival clan. When he is ordered to kill a baby from the clan, he refuses. Instead, he rescues the baby and flees to a western-cowboy town where another member of his clan has escaped and runs his own laundry business.
He arrives at the small troubled town of circus performers to find his friend dead and the town in need of another human washing machine. Yang, figuring this is the best place to hide out, takes shelter, hides his weapons and tries to live and learn a normal life.
While there, he settles into his new life and meets Lynne (Kate Bosworth), a beautiful woman who was orphaned as a child by a vicious man named the Colonel (Danny Huston). Ever since he killed her parents, Lynne has been plotting her revenge. Yang also crosses paths with Ron (Geoffrey Rush), the town drunk.
As the warrior settles into his seemingly normal life, he soon starts to realize that his past will quickly return to haunt him. His old clan his zeroing in on him and they want him dead. That’s not all though, the Colonel and his gang are threatening the town and the helpless citizens look up to Yang to save them. With two separate sets of enemies heading for his new home, Yang is forced to pull out the sword again and protect the townspeople not only from the Colonel and his gang, but also from his old clan.
First off, a lot of the problems stem from Jang’s character. He’s supposed to be the hero here and the one we root for yet his dialogue is kept to a minimum, for no apparent reason. Due to this, we’re never really able to connect with him. Most of his fight scenes are exciting and the visual effects that Lee uses are impressive but there’s just not much reason to care for him, or the people he’s fighting for.
Admittedly, on a visual level, The Warrior’s Way is a fun film. Lee uses slow-mo and interesting camera tricks to engage in imaginative imagery and composition. Green screen, CGI and matte paintings all help to achieve the surreal look and there’s a lot of eye candy provided by the nifty effects, but it’s not enough to keep us interested.
The constant shifts in genre are a bit jarring and even when the film tries to be serious it usually comes off as laughable. The direction here is anything but experienced and Lee’s first time director status is very apparent. He’s a bit too all over the place and like I said above, he’s reaching too far here.
Part of the issue is the plot which is especially thin. You can tell how weak it is by the way Lee tries to stretch the story to fit the entire runtime. But then again, seeing as Lee wrote the script, he’s the one to blame. Between the direction and the writing, most of the film just feels very misguided.
On the acting front, Danny Huston gives the most enjoyable performance as he chews scenery in his role as the Colonel. He walks around clearly loving every minute of it and although it’s admittedly overplayed, it’s fun to watch.
Jang isn’t awful but he’s just given next to nothing to work with. He stays silent for most of the picture and aside from some nice swordplay, he really doesn’t bring much to the table. The character is far too stoic which is probably more of the script’s fault but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s an entirely forgettable hero.
As for Bosworth and Rush, neither provide anything worth writing home about. Bosworth is slightly miscast and more of an annoyance than anything else while Rush is barely recognizable in the role.
It should also be mentioned that the film has an odd look to it. The effects and CGI weren’t terrible but it’s more the sets and just the entire backdrop, it all seems so phony and artificial. Green screens try to mask the fact that they’re in a studio but it just results in an out of place looking set that takes you right out of the film.
Overall, there’s not much in the film that makes it worth checking out. A couple exciting action scenes and an overall visually pleasing film may entice a couple viewers to check this one out but unless you really have nothing better to do, skip it.
Weak acting, unfocused directing and an overall very phoney feeling make for a film that is seriously misguided.