Theatrical Review: The Warrior's Way
The warrior Yang has trained at the hands of the deadly clan his entire life to become the greatest swordsman the world has ever seen. To fulfill his duty to his clan, Yang is ready to strike down the final survivor of an enemy clan. He tears through the survivor’s bodyguards only to find that the final survivor is a baby girl. Upon seeing her face and hearing her little laugh, Yang can’t bring himself to kill her and instead takes it upon himself to take care of her. Knowing that he’s failed in his duty to his clan, Yang and the baby April, set across in a journey to find an old friend of his for help. This friend has traveled to the American West and once there, Yang finds that his friend came to a deserted town now settled by a band of misfit carnival workers. But Yang’s friend has passed on, and now Yang and April find themselves adopted by the rest of the townsfolk.
Yang has abandoned his old ways and taken on the role of launderer in the town hoping that his new, quiet life will keep him from being found by his old clan. He soon discovers that the town has it’s own deadly past…
And that’s all that I’m going to say about The Warrior’s Way, a little movie that literally came out of nowhere (as far as I’m concerned) and is one of the very best little gems I’ve seen all year.
I only saw the trailer for this the first time when I saw Skyline a couple of weeks back. The trailer looked fantastic and my friends and I were ready to see this immediately on it’s opening. The trailer was exciting and stylish and loaded with action, but the final movie is another matter itself filled with a whole lot of heart and some wonderful, engaging characters.
The best way I can describe this is to reference a couple of international flavors. to me, this is like what you’d get if the French filmmaker Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Delicatessen, City of Lost Children and Amelie) made his own version of Koike and Kojima’s classic manga, Lone Wolf and Cub.
The film’s look is extremely stylized, having a “fake” quality that I think really works for it’s storybook presentation. I love the fact that director Sngmoo Lee was confident enough in his skills to go with this look and run counter to what would be traditional of making it look all too real. The stylized action certainly sells the movie in the trailer, and it’s exceptional, playing right in hand with the look of the film. That action though isn’t as large a part of the movie as you would think. It’s predominant at the start and end of the film, but the middle portion is filled with building it’s world and characters, and that’s just loaded with heart. Lee’s look may be intentionally fake, but his feel is loaded with love for the genre’s that he’s playing with here.
The cast really surprised me, simply because I wasn’t expecting to see people like Geoffrey Rush, Kate Bosworth and Danny Huston in something like this. Now while no one here is going to win awards for this work, that’s not to say that it’s bad by any means. Their inclusion adds weight to this world and I thought all concerned did a great job, with big kudos to Danny Huston playing the sadistic Colonel who terrorizes the town.
The biggest plus in the cast though is South Korean actor Jang Dong Gun who plays the warrior, Yang. Jang has a quality about him that reminds me of Chow Yun Fat to some extent. He’s extremely stoic here, but there’s still something in his eyes and his body language that makes him very appealing, and he sells the action quite well.
As I said at the top, this one really took me (and my friends) by surprise. We were expecting to have a good time with this, sort of in the same vein as we did with last year’s Ninja Assassin and what we got was a whole lot more. The Warrior’s Way is a beautiful and exciting film just loaded with heart, and heart goes a long way. I don’t expect this to appeal to everyone, but I had a ball with this. I can’t wait to see it again.