The Warrior's Way (2010)

on Monday, April 4, 2011

*Warning: its not the movie for weak hearted people*

"The Warrior's Way" opens with our hero, Yang (South Korean superstar Dong-gun Jang of "Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War"), wiping out an entire clan of swordsmen and ending a 500 year rivalry between the Sad Flutes army of assassins and an anonymous enemy clan. Yang emerged from his final battle without a scratch and needs only to slay an infant princess. Before he can carve up the adorable little girl, he feels the petal of a flower drift down onto his cheek and he experiences a change of heart. Mind you, Yang has been taught from youth by his wise master, Saddest Flute (Lung Ti of "A Better Tomorrow"),to slash anything to ribbons for which he feels the slightest affection. Something about the infant princess, Baby April (Analin Rudd), alters our pugnacious warrior's attitude. Yang embarks on a journey with the child in tow.

Most critics compare them to "Lone Wolf and Cub" film franchise, but the Charlie Chaplin and Jackie Coogan silent classic "The Kid" (1921) where the Little Tramp befriends an abandoned child is more appropriate. Since Yang and Baby April aren't safe in Asia, they climb aboard a sailing ship to America. Nevertheless, Sad Flute assassins hound Yang every step of the way by . Some of these killers are quite inconspicuous at first glance, but Yang can spot them just by the murderous vibes that they exude. One such incident occurs at a café as a wizened old woman with more wrinkles than a shar pei dog serves them food and tries to slip a knife out of a scabbard cleverly disguised as a plank in the table. Yang skewers her left eye with matched chopsticks, torches the café and continues on his way. Trouble is that our hero has left behind clues to his destination and the Sad Flutes follow.
Yang knows that the Sad Flutes are committed to following him to the far corners of the earth, but he also realizes that the only thing that will give away his location is the sound of his sword unsheathed. He decides to look up an old friend named Smiley who has taken up residence in a western town smack in the middle of nowhere.
Running away from violence is easier said than done for our protagonist. He winds up in the inauspicious town of Lode. The citizens welcome Yang and April, but Yang learns that his old friend has died. Smiley operated a laundry, and Yang decides that this might be the best thing to do to throw his enemy off his scent. Yang meets a cute sexy gal, Lynne (Kate Bosworth of "Blue Crush"), and she falls in love with our hero and little April. Unfortunately, like the remote frontier settlement in Don Siegel's made-for-TV western "Stranger on the Run" with Henry Fonda, the town of Lode suffers from the depredations of an insanely evil desperado, the Colonel (Danny Huston of "Edge of Darkness")who rode into the town years before with his army of henchmen to rape and pillage. He attacked Lynne when she was much younger but she retaliated with a skillet of sizzling potatoes that permanently disfigured him and drove him out of town. No sooner has Yang arrived in Lode without calling attention to his true identity than the merciless Colonel and his army of scummy killers arrive. A drunken gunslinger, Ron (Academy Award winning Geoffrey Rush of "Shine"), swears off his cactus juice long enough to wield a high-powered rifle to perforate the Colonel's low-down minions when they storm the town. Ron's strategy resembles the dynamite slinging lawmen in Howard Hawks' classic "Rio Bravo" where John Wayne shot sticks of dynamite that exploded in the thick of the villains. Predictably, Ron takes his share before Yang slices up the rest with his razor-sharp sword.

"The Warrior's Way" features the stoic Korean superstar Dong-gun Jang who exudes presence as he peers out from beneath his Veronica Lake hairstyle. He wields a samurai saber with the finesse of a chef slashing up a meal. Oddly enough, this dust raiser of a western was lensed in location in Australia with the liberal use of CGI so it has a contrived "Wizard of Oz" staginess that some critics have derided. Nevertheless, Lee displays enviable style as he orchestrates several ultra-violent showd0wns between the heroes and villains. "Lies" cinematographer Woo-Hyung Kim provides visually compelling compositions galore that hold your attention. Indeed, Lee and Kim have conjured up a very kinetic piece of blood and gore that should make "The Warrior's Way" an eventual cult hit on video since audiences aren't turning out in droves to see it. Basically, "The Warrior's Way" is a glorified B-movie actioneer brimming with eccentric characters and wholesale bloodshed.

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