Oddly, the only movie opening here in Bend last week was The Warrior's Way... and what a disappointment. This wannabe visually-stunning modern martial arts Western stars South Korean actor Dong-gun Jang as Yang, a Samurai warrior assassin who refuses to kill the last child of the enemy clan, adopting the baby instead. He then hides in the untamed West near a traveling circus.
With a great beginning featuring warriors battling on snow-covered ground with all that House of Flying Daggers-cart-wheeling-samurais backward-motion-floating-in-space stuff and computer-generated blood mist spraying from countless sliced necks, Way subsequently takes a dive and splats hard.
This flick strives to please just about every kind of audience and is sure to repel them all. Overly cute and then sadistically brutal, Way has the sensibilities of Shrek meets A Fistful of Dollars. Knee-deep in stereotypes, the dialogue is ridiculously predictable, the acting awful and the special effects (with the exception of one grainy sepia-toned killing spree) are just so-so.
Despite all the A-list expensive production values, you would think none of these actors had been in front of the camera before. Geoffrey Rush's cartoonish Southern drawl consists of hard R's and Kate Bosworth's accent is absolutely deplorable when she remembers to use it. Jang starred in one of the highest-grossing Korean films (Friend), but here, his blank stare and staged fight scenes reveal no acting chops. Attempting the American crossover, he's no Chow Yun Fat. You know you're in trouble when Danny Houston, as the villain, gets the juiciest role and hams it up so much that you want to throw in the towel and yell, "I give!" The slew of kooky carnival characters could've been better developed, although it's hilarious to see clowns shoot guns and get knives chucked at them.
Writer/director Sngmoo Lee strives hard to make this movie look good, but has no idea how to put it all together. Even the Sergio Leone clone music is contrived. There are also a slew of disturbingly adorable cutaways of the baby, popping up like Pampers commercials, but don't get me started on babies.
The Warrior's Way can't decide if it's a Disney film, Sanjuro, or a spaghetti western. Mainly it's an over-drawn love story interspersed with blood-drenched bodies. The synopsis sounds cool and that's why this movie is so bad - it has all the possibilities of a cult classic right up there with Alejandro Jodorowsky's El Topo, but it wimps out every chance it gets.
Starring Dong-gun Jang, Kate Bosworth, Geoffrey Rush
Directed/written by Sngmoo Lee