Magnolia Pictures // 2009 // 106 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // August 13th, 2009
Death is only the beginning.
Produced by the dudes who did Ong-Bak, sporting a hard-R rating, blood-splattered beyond belief, Demon Warriors has all the makings of the most kickass action movie ever made. Too bad it's incoherent bilge.
I'm still wrestling with this impenetrable plot, so bear with me. Apparently, there are demons running around with super-powers and a government squad of demon hunters is chasing them with shotguns, which surprisingly do little to defeat them. Meanwhile, one guy decides to fight the evildoers on their own metaphysical plane, blowing his brains out, entering the supernatural realm, and...er...wearing sunglasses. There's also a girl who plays a piano. More fighting. And more piano playing.
Ugh, major disappointment. I had big, big hopes for Demon Warriors, considering the dudes who were behind it, as well as the promise of "Pervasive, Bloody, Brutal Violence" as outlined in the MPAA ratings box. Nope. Nothing awaits you here, except for indecipherable storytelling and mediocre chopsocky.
This is what really deep-sixes the film for me. I can take nonsensical plotting in my Thai martial arts extravaganzas -- heck, I've yet to watch one that made more sense than an episode of Yo Gabba Gabba -- as long as I can count on awesome high-flying martial artistry and eye-popping stunts I've never seen before. Not with Demon Warriors. The fisticuffs are over-the-top, arterial-spray kind of bloody, but the skill and choreography is mediocre. Subtract the bloodshed from the bouts and you're left with flat, uninspired action sequences. The film is bookended by two big set-ups -- an alley fight where twenty thugs are impaled and hacked to bits, and an extended final showdown with the demon warriors -- but, if not for the fountains of blood, there would be nothing worthwhile of note. There are no cool moves, no impressive feats of physical skill, no nothing, except for blood, blood, and more blood. Demon Warriors can't hold Tony Jaa's jock.
This is a mortal wound, but let's pile on and tackle the plot. What an astoundingly convoluted batch of hokum, narrated by someone who sounds like a disinterested game show host. We're talking major mythology here and much of the screen time is devoted to unfurling it -- Who are these demons? Why do they have powers? Who's this Sadok guy that controls them? What the rules are for running around in the pseudo-afterlife? Blah blah blah. Regardless of the Herculean effort put forth by the writers and narrator, this thing sinks like a brick. Between shaking off the creeping threat of unconsciousness (thanks to the stilted fight sequences) and burning through brain cells trying to make sense of the plot (before giving up and checking my email), those 106 minutes just flew by.
On the DVD side of things, the 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen is merely adequate, looking aged and grainy. The blood is gloriously red, though. You get a Thai 5.1 audio track and an awful English 2.0 stereo dub. One extra: a making-of featurette.
I was primed to sing the praises loud and long for Demon Warriors. Naught but sad whimpers now, my friend.
Guilty. Wow, who would have thought demon warriors could be this lame?
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Thai)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 106 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R