If you’ve ever wondered what an East (as in the Orient) meets West (as in the Wild Wild West) meets exaggerated computer effects movie looks like, well then, The Warrior’s Way was meant for you. It’s got ninjas. It’s got gunslingers, both good and bad. And it’s got circus folk. Yep, those wandering entertainers that smell like cabbage are front and center with a master swordsman in a movie that isn’t quite sure what in the hell it is supposed to be.
At first it presents itself as a 300-esque slice ’em and dice ’em flick when super samurai Yang (Dong-gun Jang) makes quick work of a rival clans’ warriors. But right before he can complete the task of eliminating them entirely from the face of the Earth, he gets a change of heart — the last of his sworn enemy is a cute infant girl. Recalling an old mentor and friend who ran off to America, Yang follows suit, taking the girl with him, determined to save her from his own clan who now seeks his death too.
The Warrior’s Way then shifts gears and becomes a comedy of sorts. Yang gets adopted by a ragtag carnival troupe (complete with a bearded lady), led by a midget ringmaster (Tony Cox), that has taken up permanent residence in a deserted town. Yang takes up dry cleaning duties (gotta love stereotypes) while juggling diaper changing and baby burping with teaching knife skills to a revenge-fueled girl, Lynn (Kate Bosworth). All along, people say and do stupid stuff.
Now, I said “comedy of sorts,” because I’m not certain if first time writer/director Sngmoo Lee intentionally meant it to be. The contrast between Yang’s few words and unwavering stern look brings a smile as he fumbles with a baby and tries to make sense of the absurd cast of characters around him. The biggest laughs, however, come at the expense of watching Kate Bosworth, Geoffrey Rush and Danny Huston ham it up like they’ve never been in front of a camera before. Kate is overly bubbly, like a kid who has forgotten to take her Ritalin pills, and she speaks with one of the poorest Southern accents (at least I think it was supposed to be Southern) I’ve had the displeasure of listening to. Geoffrey Rush, a more than accomplished actor, plays the towns’ drunkard and he does little more than slur his lines and bumble about with his ass hanging out of his chaps. Danny Huston takes the cake though as Colonel, the bad guy who leads a rogue army regiment. He’s loud and boisterous, and likes to rape little girls almost as much as he likes to indiscriminately shoot the unarmed.
Of course Yang, who swore off killing, breaks his vow to save the townsfolk from Colonel and the wave of ninja assassins sent to kill him.
It’s during this climactic battle scene that Sugmoo Lee flashes some brilliance and delivers what The Warrior’s Way should have been all along: Reckless, bloody carnage. He captures the swordplay with various speed changes — normal to slow to fast to normal — making the chaos as captivating to watch as it is violent. Watching the ninjas leap from rooftops and other perches into battle in a melding of CGI and green screen wire work is equally impressive to watch.
These last 15 minutes don’t, unfortunately, make up for the previous 85. The Warrior’s Way is a throwaway movie that, at most, may be a good offering during one’s Kung-Fu Theater Sunday.