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The Warrior’s Way

tn_warriorswayRemember THE WARRIOR’S WAY? Kind of an under the radar cowboys ‘n samurais movie from last year, director with no track record, Geoffrey Rush and Kate Bosworth in the cast, hard to know what to expect from that weird combination of factors. I heard it was pretty good, but I also heard it was one of those movies that’s pretty much all done in front of green screens. I almost went to see it for the week or two it was playing in theaters, but I chickened out, waited for the spinning disc.

Turns out I liked this one. I guess I should say something like “it’s a good little movie” so I’m not building it up too much. If you say it’s a good movie that means one thing but if you say it’s a good little movie then the standards are lower. If somebody says what the fuck Vern, you said this was a good movie but I thought it had some flaws such as Kate Bosworth’s old west accent then I can say don’t put words in my mouth, I said it was a good little movie, the “little” signifies that I thought it was quite good but in my opinion I don’t figure you’re not gonna semen in your pants when you watch this one. And they would go my mistake Vern, I’m re-reading it now and you did in fact specify that it was a little movie. I stand corrected.

But it’s a pretty good little movie.

mp_warriorswayThe opening scene is a classical samurai sword duel, but it takes place in an intensified, stylized reality. Yeah, it’s a world of digital paintings, but fortunately it doesn’t look flat, it just looks artistically artificial. The battle is full of intensified details like the sounds of the swords sliding through air or the rocks on the ground being dug up by the swordsmen’s feet as they get pushed around. It’s like you have super-senses, it’s very heightened. Very Zack Snyder, actually, in this specific part. Maybe a little HERO.

Dong-gun Jang plays Yang, the titleogical warrior. The actor is Korean but the character appears to be a samurai. Whatever his specific tradition he’s a sword-guy in an unnamed Asian land where he is doing battle with another individual who some onscreen text tells us is the best swordsman in the world. When our warrior uses his way to defeat and kill the swordsman the text kinda slides across the screen over to him, because now he’s the best swordsman in the world. I really liked that gimmick (although not so much the font) but don’t worry, most of the movie isn’t being cute like that.

In killing the swordsman Yang thought he had achieved his life long goal of destroying his enemy clan. Now he can retire, go to Tokyo Disney, whatever. But no… then he sees this fucking baby. The baby is the last member of the clan. If he wants to finish up he’s gonna have to duel this baby, right? Which is not a fair duel, but neither is life. A warrior’s gotta do what a warrior’s gotta do, so he lifts up his sword and–

–just then a blossom leaf lands on his cheek. The baby sees it. It looks funny to the baby. The baby laughs. Adorable.

Ah, shit. He can’t fucking do it! The baby laughed. He can’t kill the baby. So he takes it.

So there it is, that’s your badass juxtaposition, your LONE WOLF AND CUB homage (well, one of ’em) and also the heart of the movie. This stoic, cold-blooded killer walks around with the baby he couldn’t kill. But he doesn’t know what he’s doing so he carries her around by the back of her shirt, like she’s a cat. Or a bowling ball. Sometimes he ties her to a stick and carries her over his shoulder like a bindle. Or he pins her to a clothesline and lets her hang there while he does laundry. But his clan, the Sad Flutes, feel that he is a traitor for not killing the baby so now they’re trying to kill him, and he has to go west where he thinks he can hang out with an old friend.

Turns out the old friend is dead, so Yang takes over his laundry establishment. The town is called Lode, “the Paris of the West,” and it’s a destroyed former circus or carnival type place. Like with Yang, life hasn’t turned out as planned for Lode. Tony Cox gets his biggest role since BAD SANTA playing the ringmaster, which is kind of like the mayor.

The warrior also meets this lady who works at the laundry place and is played by Bosworth. I don’t have a strong opinion on this generation’s Boz. She’s not as good as the old Boz for sure, at football or acting, but she can be good. I was worried about her doing this accent, and it’s not entirely natural, but she at least has alot more presence and charisma than she did in the Superman movie.  And actually Geoffrey Rush’s accent is weirder. I liked The Boz okay. He teaches her some sword moves – or “Boz cuts” – and she likes the baby and kind of makes it into her Bozkin.

Danny Huston is the type of villain who terrorizes the small town and everybody is too afraid to do anything until this outsider comes and helps them fight back. And also he was the guy who killed the girl’s parents years ago and she’s been waiting her whole life to get revenge on him so she gets gussied up and asks him to dinner for her chance to kill him. All of these things also happen in THE QUICK AND THE DEAD, but that’s because they’re a mix of pretty standard western elements.

THE WARRIOR’S WAY puts a new spin on it by having all this as the secondary problem that the hero gets out of the way relatively early and then has to deal with the more serious problem of his ex-clan finding him and trying to kill him for refusing to kill the baby. They’re mean if you refuse to kill babies. To be fair though he was totally gonna kill the baby before the whole blossom petal/giggling incident. Call him a softie if you want but you gotta acknowledge that he did pull his sword fully intending to cut a baby in half. That’s more cold-blooded than most of us in my opinion. Give him some credit, Sad Flutes.

Jang Dong-gun is in alot of Korean movies including NOWHWERE TO HIDE, SHIRI and TAEGUKGI. I didn’t recognize him, but I liked him. He’s a very stoic character and isn’t supposed to know much English, so he works perfectly. I think he looks a little like Chow Yun Fat, which doesn’t hurt. He does alot of squinting. This movie could die if the warrior wasn’t very cool, but this guy passes the test. When 20 ninjas glide over him like kites he knows what to do, and that’s the type of guy I want to watch a movie about.

THE WARRIOR’S WAY is a generic title, but I gotta respect that they didn’t call it COWBOYS VS. NINJAS. It might be a little forced in putting weird elements together (especially the circus aspect), but it treats it all seriously, it’s not going for wackiness. The stylized look might turn some people off, but I think it’s well done. Beneath the digital sheen it’s the classic themes that make it appeal to me. It’s a samurai movie with a creamy western center. I recommend this little movie.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Saturday, July 23rd, 2011 at 1:53 pm and is filed under Action, Martial Arts, Reviews, Western. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

21 Responses to “The Warrior’s Way”

  1. Is the action any good? ‘Cause it looks kind of lame in the trailer.

  2. ninjas v cowboys

    aliens v ninjas

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7M_QC2fatXQ

    cowboys v aliens

    i guess its all sort of like rock-paper-scissors

  3. The action is pretty decent, but there’s not too much of it. Probably worth noting also that Ti Lung plays the leader of the clan the titular warrior is on the run from.

  4. JH titty-fucking Christ!— this movie harkened me back to one of your better bon mots, Vern : “Tsui Hark in his surrealist period” (I think it was from your AICN review of “On Deadly Ground” from some film festival). Yeah, the fight scenes were commendable, but it was fuckall obvious that all the scenic Old West backdrops were done greenscreen. Plus I can’t stand Danny Huston, who never seems like he’s NOT acting (the ghost of Stanislavsky would beat this chump to death without hesitation).

    Disparate elements abound here:
    Tony Cox as the affable midget (the Yin to his obnoxious midget Yang in “Bad Santa”).
    Geoffrey Rush, chewing the scenery and cashing a paycheck (begone, mate).
    Kate Bosworth, probably now understanding that “Superman Returns” didn’t do her any favors.
    The Japanese Guy who was the main character (you, sir, are no Chow Yun Fat).

    Glad you were able to divine some enjoyment from this movie, but it annoyed the shit outta me.

  5. Whether you like this movie or not, I hope everyone can agree that there’s at least one completely badass scene in it: the corridor skirmish illuminated by the machine gun flashes.

    I do think it’s pretty sad that “The Warrior’s Way,” which is one of the more distinctive action movies I’ve seen recently, was such a giant bomb. I wonder if the director will even get a shot at another movie. It reminded me more of the Japanese green screen movies like “Casshern” and “Goemon” than the recent Hollywood efforts. Those two films are more than a bit messy, but I love them because they’re so unique, ambitious, and off-kilter.

  6. I must say I dug this; not as much as I thought I was going to but still, quite a bit.

    It’s often the case that stylised movies like this are so polarising – for every one person I know that liked this there’s two that didn’t.

    The more I think about the film the more amazed I am that it even got made.

    I have to say, the ending even managed to choke me up a little.

    The moral of the story: bad-ass Asian killing machines really shouldn’t try running a dry-cleaning business.

  7. I thought the moral of the story was give Chow Yun Fat a baby and shit is gonna get crazy.

  8. I liked the beginning, then I got pretty bored in the middle, but the end won me back.

    Here be Spoilers, and maybe dragons.

    You don’t see too many movies end on such a down note. The Warrior learns that gardening and being nice is more fun than killing people, but he still gets most of his new friends slaughtered and has to stay on the road forever. Bummer.

  9. hate to be an asshole, but I guess you’ve given up on finishing the summer movie 2001 marathon review?

  10. Wabalicious Monkeynuts

    July 25th, 2011 at 10:35 am

    Surprised to see so many negative comments, this was a great film, much better than the usual generic shite that egts cranked out. With this and The Man From Nowhere, those Taegukji brothers are starring in some great, and bloodily violent, films.

  11. Yeah, I dug this movie. The middle section was kinda flabby but the opening scenes were awesome and the climax was pretty sweet. I drug my wife to it opening night and I’m glad I did. She hated it, but it played well enough on the big screen. The world needs more Cowboys vs. Ninjas movies…

  12. Seeing as GOEMON was mentioned, anyone else notice the inconsistency of the CGI in that? Some scenes would look fantastic, then two seconds later there’d be some really ropey effects, and you just know these guys can do better, because they just did in the previous scene.

    Those and WARRIOR’S WAY kind of give of the same feel as the old school painted backdrops you’d get in Shaw Brothers films. Actually, saw KWAIDAN of late, and some of the backgrounds in that are great, obvious paintings but probably work better than any actual real location that could have been used.

  13. I went and watched this one after I read this review. I liked it. It was definitely unique. I’m glad I decided to go for it. No regrets.

  14. I thought this movie DEFINED generic. But Vern’s plot description makes it sound interesting. I’ve seen the movie (in theaters) and I KNOW it sucks, but the way he writes that synopsis makes me go…hmm, maybe.

  15. Elements in it were certainly generic but done in a unique way. I felt the stylization was intentional and why it was done in green screen rather than actual sets. However, what little was good in it just didn’t feel like it was worth the extremely dodgy effects work. It could definitely be better and more watchable, which is a shame.

  16. I quite liked this one too. Looked beautiful, delivered the samurai/western mashup and entertained me. I like movies.

  17. Just finished watching on Netflix. Greatly disappointed to know there’s little chance of a sequel. LUV’d this movie!! It entertains! And for me, that’s what movie going/watching is all about!

  18. Finally saw it on Netflix, and absolutely loved it. Just a very simple, fairy-tale like story, better-than-average action, and (to my surprise) an absolutely great heroine turn by Bosworth, an actress I’ve had zero thoughts about in the past, good or bad. She’s incredibly likable here, a great example of a broad performance done right. I would watch a sequel to this in a heartbeat.

  19. I got about five minutes into this one before I had to shut it off. It just felt so synthetic, like it had been cloned in a laboratory from the DNA of other movies instead of crafted by hand by actual human beings. It was the Spam of kung-fu movies. Does it get better or does it begin as it means to proceed and I’m just not on its wavelength?

  20. Mr. M – yeah that’s a tough question. I wasn’t excited at all about watching this (just had to clean up my Netflix queue) but the movie won me over from the very beginning. I’d say give it another shot (at least until Bosworth and Tony Cox show up) and keep expectations fairly low. There’s definitely not as much action as you’d expect (though the last 30 minutes is one long showdown) but I dug the characters enough that I didn’t care.

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