THE WARRIOR’S WAY
The Warrior’s Way: A Multi-Genre Amalgamation that Must Have Scared the Soggy Crap Out of the Guys in Marketing
by John Harvey
Honestly, I know I sound like a broken record when it comes to film trailers. If you watch the official trailer for THE WARRIOR’S WAY, then you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this movie is a straight-up action/adventure martial arts flick.
While South Korean writer/director Sngmoo Lee’s feature debut has elements of both a martial arts film and an action adventure movie, THE WARRIOR’S WAY (originally titled LAUNDRY WARRIOR, a much better title), is also a spaghetti western, a fable, a fairy tale, a romance, a comedy, a drama, and just a daaaaash of fantasy. But not a bromance —it’s definitely not a bromance.
Dear Lord, the marketing guys at Rogue (the primary distributor) probably watched this movie and were found later in the day sitting on the floor in dark corner rocking gently and mumbling to themselves.
Hence, the trailer full of lies.
For many in America, this is our first look at South Korea’s Dong-gun Jang playing Yang, a well-known entity in South Korean TV and film. In THE WARRIOR’S WAY, he plays a taciturn uber-assasin (circa late 1800s) charged with killing the sole surviving member of a rival clan, a cherubic and chronically cute baby girl (eventually named April) who melts her would-be killer’s heart. Yang betrays his clan to save this little girl and escape to America and the wild, wild West.
Yang’s journey bring him to Lode, a surreal desert town that borders on post-apocalyptic. Populated mostly by career-stalled traveling carnival performers and dominated by a derelict Ferris wheel, this sad but tight-knit community eventually welcomes Yang as the new operator of their shuttered local laundry. Dominating the scene here is the pint-sized ringmaster, Eight Ball (Tony Cox); local drunk Ron (Geoffrey Rush); and Lynne (Kate Bosworth), a chatty, rough-and-tumble beauty who helps integrate Yang into the community in exchange for martial arts training. Why? Well, Lynne has a dark and tragic past involving the scenery-chewing and sadistic Colonel (Danny Huston). She’s also the love interest that you could spot from 50 miles away, even if you’re nearsighted. Meanwhile, Yang is pursued by the leader of his former clan, Saddest Flute (Yung Ti) and a boatload of his top swordsmen.
So, here’s the thing that might frustrate you about this martial arts film: there’s not a lot of martial arts. Many of the CGI-reliant fight scenes are over before you realize that they started. In THE WARRIOR’S WAY, the violence is more about art than acrobatics. If you come to this film looking for Jackie Chan or Chow Yun Fat, then you’ll be very disappointed. The pacing of the movie is much more like the Gary Cooper classic HIGH NOON (1952), where gun-play took a backseat to character, community and story.
Considering that Sngmoo Lee’s pedigree includes a master’s degree in cinema studies from New York University and a critical role in founding the film department at the Korean National University of Arts, this mash-up of art house, martial arts and zen character study shouldn’t come as a surprise. But in reality, how many folks in the general audience know didly-squat about the guy who writes and directs a movie, unless the name is Spielberg, Cameron, Lucas or Shyamalan? So, the fact is that most people who go see this film based on the trailers and commercials will feel like they’ve been robbed.
That said, once you know what this movie is really trying to do, then is it any good? I’ve struggled with that. Ultimately, it did many things well, but it didn’t do anything fantastic. This is the problem with many genre-blending mash-ups. If a movie can only achieve a C+ to B- on all the different aspects woven into the film, then the end result is—unremarkable.
And that’s sort of where I am with THE WARRIOR’S WAY. Am I annoyed that I spent money to see this film in the theater? — well, no. But will I recommend it to friends? — probably not. Will I ever go out of my way to see it again? — absolutely not. So, that’s how I see THE WARRIOR’S WAY, it’s adequate but forgettable.
But I can’t finish out a review without being a bit of tease. So, know this — Danny Huston’s last line in the movie is possibly the best line in the movie.
Directed by: Sngmoo Lee
Written by: Sngmoo Lee
Starring: Dong-gun Jang, Tony Cox, Geoffrey Rush, Danny, Huston, and Kate Bosworth
Run Time: 1hr 40min
–- END –
© Copyright 2010 by John D. Harvey