I can never quite buy into the storytelling convention that once youachieve your dream of becoming the world's greatest warrior, youinevitably realize that dream is hollow.
I can, as the world's best-dressed billionaire, confirm that sportingthe fanciest suits in all the land isn't as meaningful as I thought itwould be when I was a starry-eyed young millionaire. But unless I takemy tailoring to old man Q, my cravats aren't capable of killing anyman who stands in their way. If nothing else, being an unbeatablegunslinger or swordsman gives you a mental edge when some clod cuts infront of you at the supermarket. (I imagine. I have all my goodsdelivered by a team of rare, flight-capable dodos.)
Still, I suppose it's not the size of the cliche, it's how you use it.Many of the ideas in The Warrior's Way are older than its 19thcentury settings, but when they're rehashed with this much excitement,they can still lead to a pretty good time.
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Dong-gun Jang has become the greatest swordsman in the history of theworld, but when it comes time to kill the last remaining member of theenemy clan--a baby girl--he refuses. With his own clan hunting himdown, he takes the girl and flees to see his friend in the Old West.
He finds his friend has died, but local Kate Bosworth knew him andtalks Jang into taking over his business. For a while, Jang is happyin a simple life--but his clan is still after the baby, and Bosworthhas a violent past of her own.
We live in an era of mashups, a culture where Pride and Prejudiceand Zombies is a bestseller and Cowboys & Aliens is aserious picture. It's only a matter of time before someone greenlightsTyrannosaurus Rex, P.I. or Pirates of the Calrissian: TheFar Side of Ice Planet Hoth.
In The Warrior's Way, first-time writer/director Sngmoo Leesticks samurai films and westerns in a blender. The resulting beverageis pretty tasty, but sometimes a chunk of something hits you the wrongway and you gag a little and hope no one sees you spit it into thesink.
Lee gets off to a strong start. His sets are bright and his actionscenes equally vivid. When Jang chops a bunch of enemy jerkwads toribbons, you can almost taste the blood. It borrows openly from Asiancinema, but carries an enthusiasm that works both as homage and forthe movie itself. Anyway, besides God, the RIAA, your parents,teachers, and spiritual leaders, who ever said stealing was wrong?
The Warrior's Way has less success when it transitions to theOld West. Not only does the drama and danger go into hibernation, butBosworth's hammy accent and dialogue also need to be strung up and shot.And then buried in an unmarked grave under a mountain of Confederategold. And then shot again by a tuberculotic Val Kilmer.
OK, eventually she gets better, but I didn't have much else to focuson for a while there, because so much of The Warrior's Way isjust there to provide for a kickass climax. A circus troupe lives intown. Geoffrey Rush is a drunk. Mayor Tony Cox is very short. With noeffort made to develop them, the movie's middle sags like the seat ofRush's dirty longjohns.
Once Lee's got all his dominoes lined up, however, he knocks the holyhell out of them, stringing together action scenes that range fromenjoyable to iconic. His sense of humor--questionable till now--gainsa goofy, darker, better edge. And it all looks great, nearly as brightas Speed Racer, like something out of a dream or maybe just areally sweet video game.
If Lee someday elevates his storytelling and dialogue to the level ofhis visual skills, he could be something special. For now, he's atalented dude who's made a movie that's far more fun than it is good.
* Contact Ed Robertson at email@example.com. His latest sciencefiction is availableon Amazon here."