If The Warrior’s Way was judged solely on the merits of its inventive, creatively filmed stuntwork, it would be one of the coolest movies of the year. Unfortunately, the characters talk when they’re not fighting, and that’s where this train runs well off the tracks.
This is the story of a ninja-ish swordsman (Dong-gun Jang) named Yang, the greatest swordsman who ever lived, who betrays his clan by failing to complete his assassination mission against their rivals when he decides to spare the life of the last remaining survivor, a darling baby girl. As a result, he leaves his assassin life behind and flees Asia to the wild west of America with baby in tow, eventually finding his way to a desolate frontier town populated by burnouts and circus freaks. There he conceals his talents and sets up a laundry shop, trying to keep a low profile but eventually finding himself drawn to a lovely resident named Lynne (Kate Bosworth) with a lingering grudge against a salacious marshall (Danny Huston) who killed her family. Also, Oscar winner Geoffrey Rush is in the mix as the town drunk for some inexplicable reason. So we’ve got ninjas searching for Yang, cowboys searching for Lynne, and a freaky ghost town filled with circus performers as ground zero for their inevitable throwdown. Still sounds good in theory, but it really isn’t.
Director Sngmoo Lee clearly concentrated his efforts on the stunts and massive use of green screen effects rather than character development, leaving his actors to fend for themselves with a leaden script, an imaginary green screen world they couldn’t interact with, and some questionable scenes such as Lynne’s prolonged torture by the creepy marshall and Yang’s childhood pressure to kill his own puppy. This gives the character interactions all the dramatic heft and believability of live action videogame cut scenes, which is to say none at all. There’s nothing wrong with any of the actors per se, they were just hung out to dry here and forced to get by as best they could.
The film looks and sounds great on Blu-ray, although the graininess of the filmed actors sometimes meshes poorly with the crystal clarity of their CGI backgrounds. Also, the CG is frequently far too CG-ish, erasing any sense of realism of the already out-there story. However, the stuntwork looks really, really good, with tons of wire fu, sweeping slow mo from the Zack Snyder school of filmmaking, and impressive swordplay on display. If only there was more of it. Instead we primarily get a burst at the beginning and a fine grand finale showdown, with the rest of the film devoted to the inane chatter of the ghost town residents.
The bonus features are fairly standard, including a brief behind the scenes featurette along with a handful of deleted scenes that definitely belong on the cutting room floor. The Blu-ray package also includes a digital copy disc for taking the film on the go. The Warrior’s Way is now available on DVD, Blu-ray, and video on demand.