I blinked and missed The Warrior’s Way during its brief theatrical run last December. Frankly, the Americanized martial arts western co-starring Superman Returns’ Kate Bosworth didn’t seem like a “Must See.” It’s comforting to learn that I can still be wrong. While The Warrior’s Way still isn’t a “Must See” by any stretch of the imagination it’s still an unusually entertaining storybook romp through captures your attention and actually rewards it. Not Who Wants to be a Millionaire rewards necessarily, but at least something akin to Beat the Geeks.
The Warrior’s Way stars Dong-gun Jang of Tae Guk Gi fame as Yang, the world’s deadliest swordsman who at the start of the film kills every single member of a rival clan… except one. Like all assassins before him, Yang’s heart melts at the thought of killing a baby so he turns on his own family and hightails it to America in search of a place to hide. He finds himself in a desert town filled with circus performers, a free-spirited young woman (Kate Bosworth) and of course the pleasures of a simple life. Yang retires his sword, falls in love, raises a child and lives happily ever after without further incident.
Wait, sorry, actually his past comes back to haunt him. I forgot what movie I was watching here. Making matters worse, an evil general played by The Proposition’s Danny Huston has an annoying tendency of showing up in town at all hours and killing and raping the inhabitants. Huston’s at his demonic best in The Warrior’s Way, and it’s to first-time writer/director Sngmoo Lee’s credit that he was able to fit in a credible menace and affective (yes that’s spelled right) murders in a movie that looks like it was shot in the same fairy tale burg as Rango. The Warrior’s Way uses green screen technology to create a nostalgia-laden genre throwback in which every sunset is more stunning than the next, but unlike some other films that use the method (I’m looking at you, Star Wars prequels) Lee also includes practical sets to make the universe feel lived in. The effect is a world that feels both fantastical and real, and that world feels like an appropriate home for the film’s tone, which juggles Kate Bosworth’s broad impersonation of Joan Cusack in Toy Story 2 with a dead-serious tale of an assassin growing his first heart with surpising ease.
For a westernized production the fight sequences in The Warrior’s Way are remarkably spot-on. None of them are all-time classics but fans of modern CGI-laden kung fu films in the Storm Riders or Kung Fu Hustle vein will find this film a perfectly enjoyable addition to that particular sub-genre, right down to the occasional goofiness. Overall The Warrior’s Way is infinitely better than one would expect from its small-ish marketing campaign, unusual cast and strange conceits.
The Warrior’s Way weighs in on Blu-Ray and may not be a heavyweight but offers a truly stellar audio/visual presentation and only a couple special features but, to their credit, they’re actually worth watching for a change. A behind the scenes montage offers a brief but genuinely interesting look at a most unusual production process and the deleted scenes actually offer content that expands on some of the minor characters, an entire (albeit unfinished) action sequence cut from the completed film and an alternate ending. Not much offered, but a lot gained. Kudos.
The Warrior’s Way wouldn’t have made a difference to my Top Ten of 2010 but it sure as hell didn’t deserve to be forgotten. Action fans should seriously consider picking this up, and casual enthusiasts should definitely give it a rental.
Crave Online Rating (Film): 7.5/10
Crave Online Rating (Blu-Ray): 8.5/10