East meets west once again in the Samurai Western mash-up The Warrior’s Way released this week on Blu-ray and DVD. Shot in New Zealand in late 2007 and shelved until it finally saw the light of day at the end of last year the film marks the directorial debut of Sngmoo Lee.
After a lifetime of training in martial arts and swordsmanship, Yang (Dong- gun Yang) has eliminated all but one of his clan’s enemies—an infant. Unwilling to kill her and unable protect her from his own deadly tribe, Yang takes the baby girl and flees, planning to seek refuge with an old friend living in Lode, a frontier town in the American West. He arrives to find that the once-thriving Gold Rush town is in shambles, inhabited only by a few dozen eccentrics including Lynne (Kate Bosworth), a beautiful, spirited knife thrower-in-training, and Ron, a worn-out drunk (Geoffrey Rush).
In order to make a safe home for the child far from the reach of his murderous clansman, Yang decides to stay on as the town’s new laundryman, sealing his sword for good. Yang unexpectedly finds a kindred spirit in Lynne. Orphaned by a horrifying act of brutality, Lynne has spent ten years plotting revenge against her attacker, the Colonel (Danny Huston). When the Colonel and his renegade gang return and threaten to destroy the town Yang reluctantly unsheathes his sword, fully aware that the ring of its blade will immediately reveal his location to his own murderous pack.
‘The Warrior’s Way’ is an odd amalgam of styles centring around the old west and much like last year’s similar ‘Jonah Hex’, it is not entirely successful in its execution. By attempting to blend the Western style with old school Eastern swordsmanship and martial arts it actually creates a comic book fantasy world completely removed from reality which is only further enhanced by the lack of physical sets and an over reliance on CGI. The whole tone of this film is completely off-centre, where it attempts to take itself seriously it actually results in unintentional humour and the tonal shifts through various genres simply do not work even as fantasy the film is just nonsense.
The film has to be a career low for some of the big name stars involved. Geoffrey Rush plays a drunk and I imagine he must have already been in character when he signed on to appear. He seems uncomfortable throughout the film as if he is slowly realising the mistake he made signing the contract. The usually excellent Danny Huston hams it up in the scarred bad guy role that develops into a cartoon villain only adding to the films scattershot tone. The dreadfully miscast Kate Bosworth is feisty but overacts to such an extent that her character is more annoying than endearing. Dong-gun Yang, Korean star of ‘Brotherhood’ and ‘The Promise’ is given little to work with. His character is tragically underwritten and forgettable, considering he is supposed to be the lead of the film his character is constantly overshadowed by the rest of the cast.
The whole film has a strange, artificial look to it, relying on computer enhanced visuals and green screen sets. Physical sets are embellished and at times replaced by some good but more often bad CGI work. Once again the CGI is allowed to take over the style and look leaving a hollow, soulless film as a result. The film’s final battle is epic in its scale but as with much of the action throughout the film it is uninvolving and repetitive as computer generated ninjas are killed in more or less the same way on each occasion.
As you may have guessed I struggled find anything to like in ‘The Warrior’s Way’, it just seems like a jumbled mess lacking any kind of real coherence or direction. The film is populated by unlikeable over the top characterisations despite the big name stars involved. It also fails to deliver in the action stakes by being dull and lacking drama. I’m always a little dubious when I hear a film has been shelved prior to its release it usually means there are unresolved problems with the finished product and that is most definitely the case with this film.
The Blu-ray presentation of the film is actually very impressive .The artificial set design and visuals are full of vibrant colour and benefit from the 1080p transfer. Some of the green screen scenes suffer from their own clarity and look even more fake than was probably intended. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio soundtrack is also well presented and as expected from a modern HD source.
The only extra on offer is a trailer for the film which seems surprising for such a special effects laden film. There is certainly room for a few documentaries about the visual effects and I’m sure fans of the film would want more for their money.
The Warrior’s Way is released on Blu-ray from today.