“The Warrior’s Way” combines somewhat successfully the Western and Samurai movies.  Only Dong-gun Jang doesn’t play a Samurai — he plays a ninja.  After wiping out all but one of a rival clan (a baby girl), Jang has a change of heart and decides to let the girl live.  Of course, this makes his own clan, The Sad Flutes, very upset, and they now target Jang and the girl for termination.  Jang goes to the American West with the girl, where he encounters a small town populated by circus freaks, a sniper who swore to never pick up a gun again, a woman (Kate Bosworth) whose family was murdered by bandits, and assorted rubes and rednecks.

There are two sets of enemies that add tension and drama to “The Warrior’s Way”: the bandits, numbering about 50 to 100; and about 3 dozen Sad Flutes.  It should be one hell of a battle and one hell of a movie; and it sort of, kind of is, but it ultimately fails.  And here are the reasons why.

“The Warrior’s Way” is not a completely serious movie.  Rough guess…it’s 30% comedy.  Most of the comedy blends decently with the movie, but unless the writer and director are extremely talented at combining comedy with action, the results tend to be that the action parts lose their intensity, leading the audience to become less engaged in the story and characters.  And that’s what happened with me.

Another reason why this movie isn’t successful is that the ninja action and violence are too stylized and over the top to the point that they are cartoonish.   It looks nice, but it lacks substance.  Also, The Sad Flutes are supposed to be bad-ass assassins; but when they go up against the gun-toting bandits, they mostly come at them using a frontal attack.  Huh?  You have swords and the enemy have guns and you charge at them head on?  Oh, and The Sad Flutes never use shurikens (sharp objects thrown at the enemy).  This is just lazy screenwriting and bad direction.

Want another reason why this movie isn’t that good?  Jang’s acting.  This is the first time I’ve seen Jang’s work, so I don’t know if he can act and he just downplayed his abilities to be a silent, brooding character, or if he really can’t act.  Whatever the case, his acting in “The Warrior’s Way” doesn’t help the movie.

And it doesn’t help that the leader of The Sad Flutes looks a lot like Cheech Marin.  I really did think it was him, wearing prosthetics to look Asian.

(Sigh) If this was done seriously, and the action was realistic, I think it would’ve been a hit.  But instead it’s a slightly entertaining movie that should be watched as a rental — or in my case, I watched it for free (thanks, Library!).

My most memorable, movie moment of “The Warrior’s Way” is the scene when Jang and Bosworth were sparring with short swords, and Bosworth had one of her swords against Jang’s neck, and she thought she won.  Jang tells her that it’s not over until the opponent’s heart stops beating, then shows her that he has one of his swords against her stomach.  Bosworth suddenly kisses Jang, which surprises the hell out of him, and then she asks him if that stopped his heart.   Even though I guessed she was going to say something like that, I was still very impressed with that scene.

Now, for those of you with cheaply made swords, nicknamed “wall hangers”:  that’s all they should do — hang on walls.  Why? Because the blade is most likely made of stainless steel, and stainless steel becomes brittle when it’s too long.  Also, cheap swords usually don’t have a full tang, meaning the blade doesn’t extend all the way into the handle; and therefore, if you start swinging your wall hanger around after seeing movies like “The Warrior’s Way,” there’s a chance the blade will fly out of the handle and stab one of your kids.

M

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