The Warrior’s Way opens with a ridiculous voiceover that informs us that the setting for the film is “A long, long time ago. In a land far away” and that it is “…the story of a sad flute, a laughin’ baby and a weepin’ sword”. If you don’t find some unintentional humour in that opening then the remaining 99 minutes are going to be unrelentingly dull slog. Even if you do it will still be an unrelentingly dull slog but one admittedly punctuated by the occasional moment of unintentional humour.
Following the opening voiceover we are introduced to the lead character Yang (Dong-gun Jang), although referring to him as a character may be overstating things a little as he is something of a charisma vacuum throughout. Yang is facing up against “The Greatest Swordsman in the History of Mankind”. We know that because there is some handy text on screen to inform us and after Yang swiftly defeats him the text dissolves and reappears over Yang. At first this transferring text seems kind of funny, almost as if the filmmakers are having some fun but as the film continues it becomes clear that this was not done with a wry smile, a tongue pressed hard against the inside of a cheek, it was actually a serious attempt to get across a significant plot point. One
amusing idiotic knock-on effect of this showdown is that it removes any level of uncertainy or threat surrounding the central character that the film might have rested on. He’s now “The Greatest Swordsman in the History of Mankind” after all. It’s quite easy to guess how things might turn out for him in the end.
Having dispatched this master swordsman Yang rescues a baby he was supposed to kill thereby ostracising himself from his clan and making him their sworn enemy. Yang hightails it west to start a new life with his new baby ward and the film stumbles into what it’s really been building up to, its high concept. You see when the narrator mentioned a long, long time ago and a land far away he may have been underselling the setting a little. The Warrior’s Way could well be called Cowboys & Ninjas as the western land that Yang heads to is a cowboy filled American West. Here he encounters a group of circus freaks (freaks might be a bit harsh – circus clichés perhaps?), drunken has-been Ron (here played by the sleep walking ghost of Geoffrey Rush) and southern drawling, knife throwing love interest Lynne (a plucky Kate Bosworth channelling Jessie the yodelling cowgirl). Throw in an evil character named simply Colonel, helpfully phoned in by a masked Danny Houston, who murdered Lynne’s parents and seems intent on destroying the town and some painfully dull filler plot points and things gradually begin limping towards a climactic battle.
The battle is primarily between the good townspeople/aforementioned circus folk and the evil Colonel with Yang doing more than his fair share of hacking and slashing on the side of the town. Before too long Yang’s old clan turn up, led by the underused Lung Ti, and it’s at this point that the director, Sngmoo Lee, seems to get down to what he was itching to do the whole time, pit cowboys against ninjas in some wildly excessive action.
If only he had the slightest idea of how to choreograph and shoot the action, how to use CGI in a way that didn’t make it feel like an incessant interruption and how to make action more interesting and compelling than the worst video game cut scenes have to offer. By the time The Warrior’s Way gets to this leaden dust bowl fight-out, fatigue has already set in and the only thing that could have saved the film, entertaining action, is non-existent. When well executed and entertaining action never transpires it becomes clear that The Warrior’s Way is a failure from beginning to end with no drama, no fun and nothing about it to recommend. If it wasn’t for the occasionally charismatic Bosworth and the running-on-almost-empty performances of Rush and Houston this review would probably be accompanied by a blank space where the stars should be but instead it receives a possibly generous one star.
The Blu-ray perhaps reflects the confidence that Relativity Media has in this film with the sole extra being a trailer for the film presented in particularly low quality. The transfer is perfectly adequate and the ludicrously over the top teal and orange visuals look smooth and glossy in high definition.
The Warrior’s Way is available to buy or rent on Blu-ray and DVD on the 28th of March.