East of West — The Warrior’s Way Review

The Warrior’s Way is a fusion mish-mash of genres, international talent, and cliches that manages to work against itself. In short, it could be explained as a sort of martial arts western with a bit of the Hong Kong film flash that utilizes slow motion for emphasis and cranking for quick action for a stop-and-go approach to film that tries to keep things entertaining. This warrior, however, loses its way because it’s got a little of everything and strains to keep its back straight juggling all of the ideas it’s trying to communicate.

The story begins with Yang (Jang Dong Gun), an ambitious swordsman of the Sad Flutes clan, achieving his goal — becoming the world’s greatest swordsman. Once he kills the leader of a rival clan, he has but one more task: To kill the last remaining member of the clan. Empty on the inside, something about the little girl stirs up something in Yang who defies his clan and becomes a target. Traveling to the United States, he befriends a shanty town filled with circus freaks and losers. Yang finds himself building relationships with the townsfolk and even gets a kiss from Lynne (Kate Bosworth) who becomes his student in a quest for revenge against the Colonel who killed her family.

It’s interesting to see the likes of Geoffrey Rush, Bosworth, Danny Huston, Tony Cox, and Korean superstar Jang Dong Gun in the same movie, especially one with cowboys and ninjas. The Warrior’s Way has an indie sort of vibe to it despite looking like a Hollywood sort of movie at first glance. Special effects seem lower budget, and the sky in the town looks like a painted backdrop. It’s an ambitious film with a desire to be artsy — and it doesn’t feel pretentious. It does, no pun intended, suffer from poor execution and silly plot details. Why do the ninjas attack so openly against armed men — you would think a clan of trained assassins would take a more low-key efficient approach to warfare. And when Yang meets his master, they speak English. Again, why? In another scene, Yang trains Lynne by throwing small pebbles at her. It turns into something that’s supposed to be romantic, but it feels so awkward. Compare those scenes to the one in which Yang sweeps through a hallway of armed gunmen, gunfire illuminating the screen like a strobe light. There is creativity there that works because it’s beautifully shot, purposeful, and artfully done. Unfortunately, it’s the exception and not the norm which is frustrating, and when the final battle ends, that frustration is punctuated full-stop because the audience doesn’t even get to see it. The Warrior’s Way pushes when it should pull — it tries to be funny, serious, and beautiful at the wrong times while also trying to be all of those things without a strong enough foundation to build from. Scenes are dashes, blips in a series that don’t form a fully cohesive message. It’s like a string of colored Christmas lights. Blue. Red. Yellow. Blue. Red. Yellow. Blue. Red…

Warrior’s Way (2010)
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Directed by: Sngmoo Lee
Written by: Sngmoo Lee
Starring: Jang Dong Gun, Geoffrey Rush, and Kate Bosworth

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