Friday, December 3, 2010

The Warrior's Way (Movie Review)

Although this movie hasn’t been hyped much via TV and online marketing, it’s one I’ve had my eye on since I saw the first cool looking trailer a few months ago.

This is a fantasy flick in the same way that “300” is. Based in real historical culture, but exaggerated well beyond realism.

The story is about an assassin-warrior from China (or was it Japan?) who is on the run from his own clan for not completing a mission. He finds refuge across the world in the wild west of America, but not for long. The troubles of this small ghost town and the warrior’s own catch up with him and the inevitable action begins.

Within the first five minutes of this movie, I said to myself “I’m totally buying this on BluRay”. But after another 45 minutes I wasn’t so sure. I’m still not.

This movie has some incredibly cool action sequences that fans of Zack Snyder’s (“300”, “Watchmen”) visual action style will enjoy. I almost wonder if Snyder was involved somehow, given the similarities. This movie is very stylized, using lots of green screen backgrounds (even for normal settings) and slow motion. From the beginning, the movie promises to give you a wild visual ride. And almost fully delivers.

A movie that spends as much creativity and money on action sequences as this one should not have the downtime this movie has in the middle. Although less than 2 hours long, this flick has about 10 minutes of fat that should have been trimmed from the waistline. Mostly it’s a case of scenes being longer than they need to be.

Kate Bosworth is essentially a place-holder for “female heroine”, not bringing anything compelling to the role and even going a bit too over the top in her comedic relief to be truly funny and unexpected. But her story is interesting enough and was satisfying to see play out.

Geoffrey Rush is an interesting character to watch. He plays the town drunk, but has one or two more layers that come into play later.

Danny Huston makes a wonderful villain, and boy his he bad! His level of depravity makes the desire for justice (or revenge) almost tangible. You want him to pay and it’s very satisfying when he does. His storyline(connected to Bosworth’s) is a pretty large part of the movie and goes a long way to keep things interesting and emotionally involving. It’s only a shame that he was not the “ultimate villain” in the film, who proved to be anti-climactic by comparison.

In the center of the story is Dong-gun Jang, who plays the Warrior, though mostly in silence, uttering a few English phrases here and there. The effectiveness of his “strong and silent” characterization varies and he mostly blends into the background, despite being the central character.

The action is the real star. This movie has some amazing visuals including a variety of camera speed manipulations and even a resurrection of the sadly underused “bullet-time” effect made popular by The Matrix. Action fans will not be let down by the extremely cool and epic fights, and Matrix and 300 fans will get a nasty itch scratched.

This movie is highly unlikely to stimulate meaningful conversation, but one theme that might be brought out is that of leaving everything you know and even making yourself the enemy of your entire social circle for the sake of doing what is right.

As I think of broken religious systems and philosophical worldviews, I can’t help but see similarities, as friends and family members lash out, ostracize or in other ways mistreat someone who is making the decision to break away from the same mold. It is this pattern that can make seeking truth in life so difficult for so many.

Ultimately, this is a very cool looking action movie with some compelling elements but too much fat in the middle and a slightly fizzled out ending.

Rated R for strong bloody violence.

Quality: 8.5/10

Relevance: 5.5/10

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