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Overall Rating

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 0%
Average: 13.33%
Pretty Bad86.67%
Total Crap: 0%

2 reviews, 3 user ratings

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Warrior's Way, The
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by Jay Seaver

"Less than the sum of its sliced-up parts."
2 stars

You know, a movie about a Chinese Swordsman fleeing to a tiny town in the Old West that is inhabited primarily by circus people should be one whole heck of a lot more entertaining than this. These sorts of mashups can be a lot of fun, but this one too often feels like it's being done by a 12-year-old who jumps from one TOTALLY BADASS thing to the next, not realizing that he's bitten off more than he can chew.

Yang (Jang Dong-gun) is "the greatest assassin in the world... ever!". His clan, the Sad Flutes, has been at war with another for decades. He has just eradicated the last of them, except for a baby, and despite all the blood he's spilled, that is apparently a line he cannot cross. Knowing that the clan's leader (Ti Lung) will hunt him and the baby down, he flees across the ocean to America, where an old friend has set up. When he gets to the town of Lode, though, he finds that "Smiley" has passed on. Pretty tomboy Lynn (Kate Bosworth) help set him and baby April up in Smiley's old laundry business, while trying to get him to teach her to fight. As much as he wants to lay down his sword, Lynn and the rest of the town may need his help when the bandit who killed Lynne's family (Danny Huston) comes back to town.

Often, with movies like The Warrior's Way, attempts to critique it get a "stop taking things so seriously" response, and in some ways that's fair. That "Ever!" actually pops up in a caption, the film features a highly-expressive comic-relief baby, there are plenty of oddball supporting characters - Tony Cox and Geoffrey Rush both show up as part of the group building a ferris wheel in Lode so that they can take the "traveling" out of their traveling circus, and that means that there are going to be clowns and mimes running around - in full costume, for some reason. The action is over-the-top, and there's a wink to the narration and unreality to the digitally-added scenery that should effectively nip any complaints about it being unrealistic in the bud.

The complaint with something like this isn't that it's unrealistic, but that it's not fun. First-time filmmaker Lee Sng-moo really does assemble this movie like an adolescent boy - he's awkward with his leading lady, makes each villain more ridiculously evil than the last, builds swordsmen up as super-awesome until he decides that having them get mowed down by machine guns would be even cooler. The last act is just unpleasant overkill, piling on the death and destruction until the audience just doesn't care any more. It's like Lee has vague ideas about how making sure the good guys take casualties too will give his movie an edge, but he hasn't figured out how to use those events to give his story dramatic heft.

There is a certain amount of surface-level shine to the movie, though. No, Lode doesn't look "real", but it does have a mythic look, and the random circus elements are a good fit. The action is actually quite well-done; Lee may not know how to use it well, but it's nicely composed and shot. And for all the fantasy trappings that the movie has, it's actually a nice and unusually realistic surprise that they don't make Lynne into a superwoman - they establish early on that she's half the size and not nearly as strong as the men, and work those limitations into her action scenes, where she certainly gets thrown around a lot even while showing some skills.

Sadly, that she's apparently a pretty good sport for getting tossed all over the set is about the best thing that can be said about Bosworth in this movie. Her portrayal of Lynne is ridiculously broad, and while I suspect that she's just giving Lee what he asked for, a larger-than-life performance to match the rest of the movie, it comes off less theatrical than just bad (it probably looks a bit worse because it's meant to contrast with Jang Don-gun's stoic and secretive character). Jang isn't bad, himself - his English is a bit halting, but he performs well with his eye, and can sell a funny moment with a pose or a look. Though rather unknown in the United States, he's actually one of South Korea's biggest stars, and some of that appeal does work its way through the language barrier.

It's not nearly enough, unfortunately. Jang, Cox, Rush, Huston, and the fine work by the technical crew almost add up to a good movie, but it's not enough to counter a writer/director who doesn't seem to get that what he puts into a genre mashup isn't nearly as important as just how he combines them.

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originally posted: 12/10/10 08:00:25
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User Comments

7/21/12 Sean Harrison Disappointing. 2 stars
8/03/11 mr.mike It ended 3 times , and the tone was all over the place. 3 stars
1/04/11 David Young Exactly what I expected maximum blood, little acting. 3 stars
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  03-Dec-2010 (R)
  DVD: 28-Jun-2011


  DVD: 28-Jun-2011

Directed by
  Sngmoo Lee

Written by
  Sngmoo Lee

  Kate Bosworth
  Geoffrey Rush
  Danny Huston
  Tony Cox
  David Austin
  Dong-Gun Jang

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