Review: The Warrior's Way Gives Dull Action to a Stylized Setting
by Jeremy Kirk
December 8, 2010
What do the people in The Warrior's Way eat? They're in the middle of the desert in a small town with no discernible means of supplying nourishment to themselves. When the moment arises to actually plant anything, we cut to a massive garden full of flowers. Pretty, sure, but not really something to keep your body going. At one point, a character is seen eating a steak. Great, but where did that come from? Magical cows that suddenly appear out of nowhere to give their lives for the benefit of humans? Was the steak made of sand? Is there some unwritten subplot involving cannibalism?
You might be asking yourself why it matters, why in this film about 19th century warrior-assassins in the old West an issue of character sustenance might be worth mulling over. The simple fact is it really doesn't, but it should be noted that in a film with this setup, there sure doesn't seem to be much to distract you from trying to piece together moot points such as the one laid out above.
Created by first-time writer and director Sngmoo Lee, The Warrior's Way is a plodding piece of stylish vacuity, an action movie that seems more concerned with ridiculous humor, hammy relationships and cute babies than wall-to-wall sword-swinging and six-shooter-firing. It's a movie as empty and as idle as the desert in which it takes place.
There's a certain level of promise built in the opening moments. Dong-gun Jang is introduced as Yang, the titular warrior and member of a clan who is at war with another clan. Why? Doesn't matter. All that matters is that in the first few minutes of the film, Yang takes out the last remaining members of the opposing side. In the process, he kills the greatest warrior alive taking the title for himself. Little did Yang know that this warrior had a baby daughter, one who Yang can not bring himself to kill. Instead, he takes the baby for his own with his own clan turning on him for his show of humanity.
Before you can say Lone Wolf and Cub, Yang flees to the Americas, more notably Lode, a small town resting in the desert where an old friend is supposed to be residing. Yang doesn't find his friend. Instead, he finds straggling members of a traveling circus, Geoffrey Rush as a town drunk, and Kate Bosworth as the town beauty with a troubled past.
It's here where The Warrior's Way comes to a screeching halt. Any idea of hyperactive pacing or rip-roaring action the opening may have promised get blown into the desert with the tumbleweeds. Having left his former life as an assassin behind him, Yang tries to form a bond with the people of Lode. This includes helping plant the garden, the one with the nice-looking flowers no one can eat, and teaching Bosworth's character the art of knife-throwing. Evidently, all you need to do is blindfold yourself to become a master knife thrower. Kids, do NOT try that at home.
This comes in handy, of course, once Danny Huston's evil Colonel and his band of dirty marauders come to town. For what? Again, it doesn't really matter. They just like to pick on people, I guess. There's no food. It isn't like the townspeople are hiding a vast fortune in ancient gold or anything. This is another idea of picking on minutia that probably wouldn't even bubble to the surface if there was anything interesting going on elsewhere in the movie.
Sadly, the ideas of the townspeople, clowns and bearded ladies alike, rising up against the bullying marauders as well as Yang's clan tracking him to the small town don't amount to much until the film's final 30 minutes. Everything in between the opening and the climaxing battle is made up of meandering moments of Yang looking stoic, Bosworth being just on the right side of cute to be annoying (her accent disappears quicker than the film's action), and Tony Cox being his typical, cringe-inducing self. He plays a character named Eight-Ball. He has a white 8 painted on top of his head. It's cute and a little stupid.
Once the action finally kicks in, it's not epic enough to be worthwhile, but it also isn't poorly constructed. Lee shoots his action with style and patience, giving plenty of room to what is going on to allow us to watch it unhindered. When the final battle is taking place, each member of the three sides is dressed in such a way as to be able to tell who is doing what to who, another plus that isn't always the case in today's world of extreme closeup action. There is a lot of CG and wire work that makes it hokey, but, at the very least, it gives the action a level of fun that is nowhere to be found elsewhere in the film.
Unfortunately, the fun hits too late in The Warrior's Way to redeem it from being anything but a lethargic yet stylish set piece. It moves like a snail and hits with all the intensity of a dulled steak knife, about as far from the concept of a warrior assassin as one can get. When all is said and done, The Warrior's Way, much like the folks in the town which it's set, has absolutely nothing to chew on so the idea of style over substance comes off like a slab of icing without the cake. You know, if that cake even existed in the first place.
Jeremy's Rating: 3.5 out of 10