The Warrior's Way is a meeting of East and West. Set in the 19th century, South Korean actor Jang Dong-gun plays a warrior named Yang who belongs to a clan named the Sad Flutes. Yang finds himself in hot water after refusing to fulfill a mission that involved the killing of an infant. This isn't just an infant, but the last remaining member of the enemy clan. So now Yang finds him on the run from his own clan, so he heads to West to America, to a small carnival town called Lode. Here he meets an eccentric cast of characters and inadvertently puts them all in danger.
The Warrior's Way starts out as this exciting, action-packed kung fu flick. Liberties are taken with realism, as is the case with some of the best kung fu movies. Yang is dashing left and right, slicing foes in two. And then next thing you know he's in a podunk town in the desert and everything slows to a crawl. I'm not someone who needs nonstop action to stay entertained, but the criminally short first act sets a tone that immediately changes and the change is jarring.
The second act of The Warrior's Way could be interesting, what with its varied cast of circus folk, but the film chooses to focus on the least interesting character in the town - Kate Bosworth's Lynne. I'm not a fan of Bosworth to start with, but I found her character to be extraordinarily aggravating. Yang takes her under his wing and teaches her various combat techniques, in a relationship that's just as cliché as it sounds. He's the quite and professional. She's loud and reckless. There's even a scene where, as a way of teaching Lynne how to properly throw knives, Yang blindfolds her and stands against a target as a barrage of blades land all around him. We need more movies where these sort of insane methods backfire.
Fortunately, the rest of the townsfolk are a bit more interesting than Lynne, including the apparent leader of the town, Eight-Ball (Tony Cox). While Cox's stature often gets him cast in comedies, he's a more than capable serious actor and displays an impressive amount of strength as the (literally) smallest member of the town. And then there's the town drunk, Ron, played by the always-enjoyable Geoffrey Rush. We know he's got a history, and we can assume it's violent, but who he is and what he's been through isn't made clear until towards the end. Ron is a wonderful character and Rush does an excellent job as always, far beyond what this movie calls for.
The Warrior's Way has a lot of things going for it. It looks fantastic, both in direction and surroundings. Rush is great, as is Danny Huston as the villainous Colonel, and Jang Dong-gun is bound to be a star. And yet the film fails to fully capitalize on these elements and instead brings Bosworth to the front, focusing way too much on her and Yang's relationship, making the second act a chore to get through. The third act houses plenty of action, but all things considered, I don't think it's worth sitting through that lull.
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