Judge Patrick Naugle knows the way to Nanyang, Henan.
Our review of The Warrior's Way, published June 28th, 2011, is also available.
East Meets West.
Every red blooded American loves a western, right? And what true blue alpha male doesn't like a good ninja flick? Continuing with that thought process, who wouldn't enjoy a movie that features saloon visiting, tobacco spittin' cowboys and silent, stealthy ninjas? That's exactly what the makers of The Warrior's Way thought, now available on Blu-ray care of Fox Home Entertainment.
Facts of the Case
Yang (newcomer Jang Dong-gun) is the greatest swordsman of all time. At least he will be, once he takes down the other self-proclaimed greatest swordsman of all time. Yang is a part of the 'Sad Flutes', a clan so named that because it's the sound a throat makes when it's slit (how nice). When Yang takes out the leader of a rival clan but refuses to kill an infant girl that is the last line of said clan's linage (apparently there aren't a lot of fertile black belts out there), Yang flees to American—kid in tow—and hides out in a small western ghost town filled with simple townspeople and a crumbling traveling circus led by the diminutive 8-Ball (Tony Cox, Bad Santa).
Working in the local Laundromat (!), Yang befriends Lynne (Kate Bosworth, whose teeth should get top billing), a local woman who saw her family killed by the dastardly Colonel (Danny Huston, X-Men Origins: Wolverine. When The Colonel saunters in to town with his vile posse just as Jang's overseas enemies catch up to him, Jang realizes that he may be the only thing standing between a bloodthirsty rampage and the town's salvation.
How depressing it is when a film shows such promise and then sits on the screen like a dying, flopping fish, gasping for meaning or excitement. The Warrior's Way is just such a film whose cardinal sin is that it's boring for almost 2/3 or its run time; from the first few frames the movie just doesn't seem to have enough gas to get wherever it is it wants to go. When the final showdown finally takes place, it's exciting but feels anti-climactic, making you want to look around the room and go, "Really? That's it?" No build up and a small climax makes for a pretty limp movie-going experience.
At first glance it appears this could be very cool premise. The wild, wild west and ninjas? Well now, that certainly sounds as sweet as molasses dripping of a supermodel's back! If they'd have thrown in some cavemen and a few shape changing robots from outer space this could have been the best movie ever made! I could easily envision an awesome flick where eastern ninjas collide with western gunslingers. That's one of The Warrior's Way's biggest flaws: whatever you just imagined in that previous sentence is a LOT cooler than what shows up on screen. Sure, there's a lot of stylized violence and effects, but to what end? I didn't care about anyone in the movie nor what happened to them. That is a bad omen.
The Warrior's Way was meant as a Hollywood introduction to Dong-gun Jang, one of China's biggest movie stars (unknown by me). If this is the best they can do as an introduction it may be a long, bumpy road for this newly minted star. If Jang has a unique onscreen personality it's totally lost in the mash up of metal swords, CGI effects and dreary storytelling. Jang plays is role with such rock solid stoicism that you almost expect him to have granite pebbles for teeth. I don't think Jang showed more than two emotions during the entire film which included 1) determination, and 2) excessive determination. Nothing derails a career quicker than a lack of charisma on the part of the star.
Kate Bosworth—seemingly MIA since she showed up as Lois Lane in Bryan Singer's failed comic book reboot Superman Returns—plays her character with what feels like a very false 'aww shucks' Calamity Jane accent. She looks sufficiently attractive (something that always looks out of place in the old west) yet ends up grating on the viewer's nerves by the midway point. Danny Huston plays the villain in a mask that makes him look like the lovechild of WWE wrestler Mick "Mankind" Foley and Hannibal Lecter. Huston is that rare actor that seems to be everywhere (seriously, was he in every movie of 2010?) and possesses a great deal of talent, yet hasn't found the right vehicle to really show off his stuff. Geoffrey Rush's performance as the town drunk would have been a lot more impressive if he didn't look like he was cribbing his mannerisms and nuances from his Pirates of the Caribbean co-star Johnny Depp's Capt. Jack Sparrow. The rest of the cast is filled with dirty townsfolk and caped, faceless ninjas.
For all its faults I can at least appreciate what The Warrior's Way writer/director Sngmoo Lee was trying to accomplish. I liked some of the visuals (a great scene of mysterious ninjas perched on an a saloon building like deathly vultures looked imposing) and the action sequences are slick and well choreographed. In the end, though, it feels like too little, too late. Mixing the old west with Asian martial arts holds a nugget of a good movie, but The Warrior's Way isn't it. It's as if the filmmakers forgot to start with interesting characters and a gratifying storyline.
If you want a good western rent the new True Grit remake.
If you're looking for an awesome martial arts flick check out Ninja Assassin.
If you want to save two hours of your life, skip The Warrior's Way.
The Warrior's Way is presented in a fantastic looking 2.40:1 widescreen transfer in 1080p high definition. The image quality—scrubbed clean due to its heavy CGI use—is nearly pristine. Blemishes or dirt are nowhere to be found here; the picture is crisp and very sharp (not surprising considering it's less than half a year old). Whatever your thoughts about the film, The Warrior's Way is a beauty when it comes to its visual palate and transfer.
The soundtrack is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround and, much like the video presentation, this audio mix gets the job done and then some. There are a lot of moments here where all of the speakers are fully engaged (especially during the heavy battle scenes). Your sound system is sure to get a hefty workout with this mix; all dialogue, music and effects are clearly recorded. Also included on this disc is a French 5.1 surround mix, as well as Spanish, English and French subtitles.
Since The Warrior's Way was a flop during its theatrical run it's no shock to see a lack of supplemental materials on this disc. All fans get is a short (less than three minutes) "Behind the Scenes" montage and around twelve minutes of deleted (all justifiably cut). A bonus digital copy of the disc is also included.
I was bored for almost the entire runtime of The Warrior's Way, which should tell you everything you need to know about this flick. Fans of the westerns or ninja movies may get a kick out of this one, but make sure you check it out as a rental before you plop down any hard earned cash on this mediocre action movie.
In my eyes, The Warrior's Way is the wrong way to do a western/martial arts hybrid. Guilty!
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Scales of Justice
• Deleted Scenes
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