Fight Film Friday: The Warrior’s Way

Posted: December 3, 2010 in fight film friday
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The Warrior’s Way

Korea/USA, 2010

Genre: Action

100 minutes

An assassin from the East flees to the Wild West when he can’t bring himself to kill the last survivor of his rival clan.

The Warrior’s Way is a thinly veiled attempt to market Korean pop star Jang Dong-gun to American audiences, and it shows. Flat and completely unoriginal, director Sngmoo Lee fails in just about every respect of filmmaking with this endeavor, presenting what can best be described as some kind of amateur attempt to appeal to the lowest common denominator of action fans. The heavy use of bluescreen backgrounds and CGI effects completely destroys the visual look of the film, making it look like a child’s storybook with its oversaturated colors and plastic scenery. The score is awkwardly cobbled together from things that I imagine Lee thought sounded appropriate for the situation, lacking any sort of consistency of theme or tone. Everything just feels so empty and pointless, from the look to the sound and everything in between.

As with most action movie cash-grabs, stereotypes and clichés abound. All the characters are cartoonish in a non-entertaining way, as if injecting tragic backstory to a cast member was a recipe for instant sympathy. There are a few moments of genuine feeling and performance, but they are brief and far too few to make a difference. The roles are all stolen from contrived action archetypes, but lacking in any definition or ways to make us care. Also, giving all the Americans a country accent in the Wild West feels cheap, and it doesn’t help that none of the actors seem to be able to do it convincingly. Jang’s hero is typically (and blandly) the strong stoic and silent type, but he doesn’t have the presence or intensity to make him seem threatening or imposing in any way. He’s a set piece that we’re told is supposed to be mysterious and dangerous, but it never comes across in his performance. The support cast is decent, but fall victim to the terrible script and direction. The biggest betrayal is the severe underuse of Geoffrey Rush, one of only a handful of people to have won an Oscar, a Tony, and an Emmy Award. In this film he’s meant to be a tragic character with a dark past, but instead comes off like a bumbling fool until the plot requires him to save the day. Kate Bosworth and Danny Huston don’t fare much better, although they do get a bit more time to show how ridiculous the script is.

Now, of course the main selling point of this movie is supposed to be the fantastic action, a genre-blending spectacle of American gunslinging and Asian martial arts prowess. However, Lee completely disappoints in this area as well. The action is almost non-existent in the entire first half of the film, dragging the pace through the mud as it falls over trying to show character development and sell us a romance between Jang and Bosworth. When the action finally does get started, there’s hardly any investment in the characters at all, making it very hard to care what’s even happening to them. To complement the terrible CGI scenery, we’re given terrible CGI blood, bad guys, and explosions, all of which look awful for a movie of this budget, billing, and sheer marketing hype. Jang’s fights are heavy on the digital effects and clumsy wire-work, and no amount of swooshing noises or slow motion can make him look impressive as a martial artist. Bosworth and Huston actually give us the best fight of the film, which begs the question of why the Americans are outdoing the Korean in his own vehicle movie.

I can’t say for certain how successful Rogue Studios’ attempts to cram this movie down our throats will be, looking solely at the quality of work they’ve show us. However, the movie-going public can be difficult to gauge, and it’s really impossible to judge how much the mass marketing campaign can affect the popular opinion until the numbers add up. But I will say that if you have any investment in the martial arts movie genre, the Western movie genre, or the action movie genre at all, you’ll save yourself the trouble and skip this one when you’re at the theater. The Warrior’s Way is a cheap appeal to flash and star power, totally devoid of any sort of substance or entertainment value.

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