Part western, part martial acts, and part freaky carnival? Yes, put all three together, plus a baby, and you have The Warrior's Way. A film that in itself is not spectacular, nor epic in martial arts proportions, but sneakily entertains your senses for unexplainable reasons.
The story is narrated for the duration by Ron (Geoffrey Rush), who will soon become known to the viewer as the drunken retired bank robber who lives in the run-down western town. He introduces us to Yang (Dong-gun Jang) who is the greatest swordsmen that ever lived. After defeating his enemy clan he makes the choice to spare the final member, a baby he later names April (Analin Rudd). Knowing he must leave his world behind in order to keep the child safe he ventures to the West in search of an old friend. His journey ends in the town of Lode, an American frontier town that has seen better days. The inhabitants of this desert town are carnival dwellers and outcasts. They have been plagued by horrors over the years from the Colonel (Danny Huston) and the spit-fire town maiden, Lynne (Kate Bosworth) has vowed revenge over what he did to her, and her family. Even with the racist tendencies of the townspeople Yang is able to find a home in Lode with the baby April but before long trouble finds him, and the rag tag band of residents. This trouble is not only from the Colonel and his gang but also Yang's old clan master and his most fearful army of swordsmen. What transpires is a mixture of martial-arts choreography and a down and dirty western style shoot-out. Swords cut through the air while bullets penetrate skulls. It is loud, bloody, dizzying, and kind of a fantastic ending to a film that has a very slow start.
If you can relinquish your predetermined ideas about how a martial arts/western movie should be done then there is great possibility in you enjoying The Warrior's Way. The dialogue is simple, as are the characters. The acting mimics this simpleness to a fault and neglects ever reaching naturalness by any of the characters involved. They are just that...characters; put on display to act out their parts in this carnival-esque display on screen. Yang is practically devoid of emotion, while Lynne shows brazen fire but also her naivete for the world yet never appears normal enough or crazy enough to make the viewer understand her motivations. There are serious pacing issues from the very beginning making it an incredibly slow film from start to finish; and it is only just over 90 minutes. But as I said above, liking this movie is entirely possible but finding the exact reason why...impossible. It is a gamble which way your feelings may fall but I think it is a gamble worth taking if you're feeling brave.
Lode was once a thriving gold rush town. It now lays in ruins and gives the impression that a strong wind would blow every building down into the sandy dirt. The buildings are barely standing, and some no longer have an inside at all, just the front door as a distant memory of what once existed. At the end of the classic single road of this western town lies an abandoned circus. A half-built ferris wheel looms high in the sky while old circus tents, and rusting carnival rides and booths gather dust and debris. It is a strange sight to behold in the middle of the formidable desert where life does, but should not, exist. It is the circus that keeps the people of Lode from leaving. The idea that one day the ferris wheel will be built and people will once again visit so Lode can be restored to its previous glory. Everyone still wears their costumes, the clowns are in full make-up, and no matter how depressing the scenery may appear it is strangely euphoric and beautiful. Production Designer Dan Hennah has created a place that is something out of the fantastical. It makes absolutely no sense but at the same time is visually stunning when paired with the cinematography and special effects that it all becomes greater than the plot itself. The addition of certain anime elements through the special effects, along with the incredible colors that fill the screen at every angle, and The Warrior's Way becomes an epic in visual imagery.
December 3, 2010