Movie Review: The Warrior's Way (2010)
As you've seen from the trailers, The Warrior's Way is a ninja movie about a master ninja assassin who fights to eliminate competing clans. When Yang (Dong-gun Jang) comes across the last remaining infant child of an enemy people, he decides to save her life and care for her as his own, thus marking himself for death as a traitor and an enemy of those he formerly called family.
But that is only part of the story. The way it is laid out, it is very misleading, suggesting to the audience that what to expect is a conventional martial arts action movie, when in reality, this movie is nothing like the cool trailers suggest. Allow me to describe the full order of events beginning where the introductory paragraph leaves off...
Ninja defies clan. Ninja takes child and moves to an American frontier town in the old west where bits and pieces of buildings can be seen that are supposed to pass for an actual city. Ninja travels a long way, with no diapers or baby supplies, with the unnamed baby no doubt combating nausea as she swings from a stick over Ninja's shoulder like a hobo's gear.
Ninja arrives at the town seeking an old friend who is no longer around. Ninja meets Lynne (Kate Bosworth) who loves to throw knives, but sucks at it. Ninja throws pebbles at her ass and teaches baby to walk, blowing bubbles at her while running a laundry business. Ninja does this while cultivating flowers and enjoying a quiet life with Lynne who helps take care of baby. The baby is suddenly named April. Ninja teaches Lynne to sword-fight.
Marauding rapist cowboys roll into town, led by Colonel (Danny Huston), who begin killing and harassing people without merit. A drunk quits drinking and takes up shooting rapist cowboys alongside Ninja and clowns who fight in theme park rides to distract them in an entire amusement park that materializes, seemingly, from out of nowhere, with fully operable rides. Then come the ninjas from out of the skies, and later, from under the snow (unaffected by frostbite or sub-zero temps and able to dig themselves into layers of snow for long stretches of time, and without arousing the suspicions of a keen-minded ninja). End summation.
The idea of warring ninja clans (swiped from 2009's flawed, but much better than this, Ninja Assassin) seemed too good an idea not to incorporate into this slipshod slacker of a ninja movie that is, quite actually, a disastrously unfunny attempt at combining lighthearted, humor-splintered drama and action into one sword-slashing affair that does, in fairness, attempt to be philosophical in its approach and Asian in style.
Yang's ninja clan is called “The Sad Flutes” because when a man's throat is slit, it makes a sound described as a sad flute. It is towards the end of the movie that enemy clan leader, Saddest Flute (Lung Ti), again appealing to Yang to kill the child, asks: “When she grows up, will you tell her that you killed her father and mother and everyone who loved her?” Ah, here is some food for thought. Sadly, it is not enough.
By way of point deductions, there is so much more to look at here than a paper-thin story and even thinner characters that would have to put forth incredible effort to get things more off the mark than they do. The obviously and artificially created walls, skies, and storefronts, all created in a studio on a green screen with CGI-aided scenery and crappily drawn-in blurbs passing for ninjas running and leaping from building to building are another noticeable glitch in this wobbly work of numerous imperfections.
Tony Cox plays “Eight-Ball,” a comic relief circus midget character that, in some alternate universe, could have pulled off his role successfully, with abundant charm (as much or more than Bosworth and certainly everyone else in this laughingstock). Geoffrey Rush plays “Ron,” the token town drunk who gets into gear to kick ass with the rest of the city, infiltrated with lawless bandit rapists and, yes, ninjas who jump from plum out of the sky and onto buildings.
Grim, emotionless stares and tired sequences of filming that accomplish little more than fortify an action-deprived story that nobody cares about (yes, this ninja movie receives hefty point deductions for lack of action) compose the majority of the film's run-time. Baby April is a pleasant baby, and one of the best screen presences, though apparently immune to colicky crying spells, unlike most babies. I don't know if I would have preferred the sound of a crying baby to this Asian-ized ninja/western excursion void of any real sense of feeling. And what better way to reward a quiet baby than to have the main character suspend her on clothespins?
Suffice it to say, The Warrior's Way doesn't exactly pay tribute to ninja fighting and the things that made 80s ninja cheese so watchable to previous generations. But the thing that gets me most: With the arrival of this great master ninja (who, for some weird reason, is so much better than the massive armies of the other ninjas he once fought alongside), no one in the town – and not even the Lynne character – seems to appreciate being around “the greatest swordsman ever.” What, I ask you, is a martial arts flick without that sense of awe-inspired amazement?
And despite ninjas with very noticeable head gear, jumping out of the skies and snow in broad daylight (who repeatedly ignore every surprise advantage they get, choosing to jump head-on into bullets instead), it doesn't have an ounce of respect for the genre that made it possible in the first place. There are only a few townspeople in this “town,” and all of them look as goofy and ill-placed as Gomer Pyle walking onto the wrong set.
The Warrior's Way just keeps getting worse and is “The Warrior's Waste” as far as I'm concerned and a serious runner-up for the worst movie of the year. But if they'd thrown in just a few more clowns, we might have had a contender for that ever-coveted “It's so bad it's good!” category. Only going the way of a cult classic can save it now, seeing as it's no great wonder why critics were given no advance screenings on this one.
Grade: F (0 stars)
Rated: R (for bloody violence and adult themes)
Director: Sngmoo Lee
Summary: A warrior-assassin is forced to hide in a small town in the American Badlands after refusing a mission.
Starring: Dong-gun Jang "Yang," Kate Bosworth "Lynne," Geoffrey Rush "Ron," Danny Huston "Colonel," Tony Cox "Eight-Ball," Lung Ti "Saddest Flute," Analin Rudd "Baby April," Markus Hamilton "Baptiste"
Genre: Action / Fantasy / Western