If there was ever a competition for the most subtle film, the award for “least subtle” would possibly be given to the extremely silly and over-the-top The Warrior’s Way, a clash of East and West, cowboys and ninjas. It takes place primarily in the Wild West, although its climax involves a battle involving a good swordsman, good cowboys, bad cowboys, and bad ninjas. If that sounds awesome to you, well, that’s too bad. Unfortunately, it actually isn’t all that good. I’m sorry to be the one delivering that news.
The film begins with the almost-extermination of an entire clan, somewhere in Asia. A man named Yang (Jang Dong-gun) has recently become the best swordsman in all the world. We know this because the narration tells us so, as well as some text that pops up and hammers the point home. There has been a clan war for 500 years, and after defeating the final adult of the opposing clan, Yang is ready to deliver the killing blow to the last remaining person, who just so happens to be a baby girl. He decides, like a good person would, to spare the child. This turns his whole clan against him. He flees to America.
It’s here where he wanders into a small town — filled primarily with carnies — and tries to fit in. For a while, that works fine. He catches the eye of the woman running the town’s laundry shop, Lynne (Kate Bostworth), starts a flower garden, and seems to be enjoying himself. And then trouble comes in the form of a corrupt Colonel (Danny Huston), as well as the aforementioned evil ninjas.
Did I just describe the majority of the film? Yes. Yes, I did. What more do you want from me? The Warrior’s Way is so completely devoid of content that there’s little more one can say than to set the scene for the final battle. There’s little to any of the characters, the plot is basically non-existent, and I can’t think of a single memorable moment that didn’t involve people slicing each other up in various, often bloodless, ways. And since most of that happens at the end, I don’t know what more you want. It’s impossible to “spoil” a movie like this one.
The worst thing about The Warrior’s Way — yes, worse than the lack of content — is that it seemed to be aiming for a PG-13 rating and therefore the violence of the action scenes had to be significantly toned down. It did, however, still get an R. The bloodiest fight, for instance, took place with shadows because that’s the only way that scene could be included. Most of the fights don’t even show characters getting hit. There’s no weight to the blade, and the scenes are less impressive as a result.
That’s really too bad, because director Sngmoo Lee has a keen eye for visuals in these scenes, and if he was allowed to actually show most of the violence, instead of just having someone slice near another character and have them fall down, The Warrior’s Way might be worth seeing just for the fight scenes. But because the film was neutered for the teenage crowd, so too were the filmmaker’s talents. Even with the terrible, lifeless script, if the action scenes were fun, the movie as a whole might be enjoyable.
After learning all this, perhaps you might be thinking to yourself that it might be a fun ride to make fun of with friends. I don’t think that will be the case, but you’re welcome to try it. It’s too self aware of all its clichés and stupidity that poking at it is like beating up a defenseless bunny; it’s just cruel, and you shouldn’t do it. There’s little fun that can come from watching a movie as bad — but not so bad that it winds up being good — as this one.
The Warrior’s Way does have a unique look, but that look is cheap and as if a low budget was being compensated for with CGI backgrounds and a style which attempts to hide anything that might be expensive. Much of the action is done in slow motion, which initially looks cool but soon becomes tiresome — Zach Snyder often faces this same problem — and while the promise of cowboys fighting against ninjas seems like it could be fun, it barely even factors into the equation. And when it does, the scene is a confused blur that’s almost impossible to follow.
Only Jang Dong-gun as the silent warrior, Yang, is any good in this movie. Kate Bosworth is laughable as her character hopes to get revenge on the evil Colonel — he killed her family and almost killer her, many years earlier. Geoffrey Rush shows up as a drunk for most of the film and a skilled gunman for the final fight. Danny Huston’s Colonel is silly and you can’t take him seriously, even in the scenes where that’s the intent — which, admittedly, is rare. This is a film that you try to hide from potential employers.
The Warrior’s Way could have been an enjoyable B-movie destined to find a cult to follow it. However, without any sort of ambitions or even content beyond a few lackluster action scenes, there’s nothing to take from it, good or bad. It’s a boring, low-budget-looking action movie that not only has as many Western clichés as it could fit, but also as many Asian ones, too. It is a very unenjoyable movie and you have no reason to seek it out.