There is a tragic craft to how one manages to make a film about “the greatest swordsman who has ever lived” as boring as The Warrior’s Way. Expectations were hardly set high to begin with – not to mention the fact that it wrapped almost three years ago yet has only now been quietly released, implying studio embarrassment – yet director Sngmoo Lee’s soporific, painfully dull effort cannot even deliver the cheap hack-and-slash, gore-soaked thrills of a film like Ninja Assassin. Instead, this is stewed in the same soulless monotony that made Blood: The Last Vampire so interminably boring.
Yang (Jang Dong-gun) is the aforementioned master swordsman who, after refusing to kill the remaining member of an opposing clan – on the basis that she is an innocent baby girl – is cast out by his own brethren, with a want put out on his life. Yang flees to America and chances upon a circus town in the middle of nowhere, where he meets plucky knife-thrower Lynne (Kate Bosworth), who is keen to avenge the death of her family at the hands of a lecherous, despotic Colonel (Danny Huston). Banding up with the carnies who inhabit the town, they must repel both the Colonel’s forces and Yang’s old clan once and for all.
If you can forgive the cringe-inducing narration, flat, sub-Snyder direction and atrocious script, The Warrior’s Way is still a dreadful work of action cinema and in fact anything remotely resembling a film or product intended for entertainment purposes. Pitched as a campy western like The Good, The Bad and the Weird, but neither funny nor fun, it is instead an oddly bland “adventure” film bogged down considerably by charmless lead Jang, whose self-evident unfamiliarity with the English language restricts him to monosyllabic quips and blank stares at all times.
Its biggest crime, however, is that with all of its extravagant visual effects and hyperactive slow-motion, it cannot muster a decent set-piece or exciting moment.
Deaths occur occasionally – and often off-screen – throughout, but Lee never ramps things up into an actual scene of action until the final act; a lengthy though mostly generic shootout of attrition, memorable only for a mildly inventive use of dynamite (and the unintentionally funny slaughter of a few clowns). Aside from this, the intermittent flashes of violence result in the same sword slash with the same blood-squirt animation repeating over and over like an ill-considered video game.
The few things to like are generally thrown to the wayside more often than not; Geoffrey Rush as town drunk and savant sniper Ron give it the usual welly, while Huston, wearing a ridiculous face mask and doing his best Mason Verger impression, hams it up for the cheap seats, making for a few mildly entertaining moments. If you can get past her irritating Southern drawl, Bosworth meanwhile fills out a corset nicely mid-film, practically bursting out of it and sure to get pulses racing. The baby girl also pulls a few funny faces, and she’s certainly more expressive than her screen guardian. She’s a lot cuter, too.
Pretty much a 101 in how not to make a sword-swishing adventure film fun or exciting, The Warrior’s Way bungles what could have been a quirky, action-packed, knowing work of gore-drenched shlock. Instead, it is mind-numbingly snoozy, with pacing like a slug and leaden, uninteresting characters. At least it won’t be in cinemas for long, and nobody involved with it is likely to be rewarded handsomely. Unquestionably one of 2010′s biggest misfires.
The Warrior’s Way is in cinema’s now.
This article was first posted on December 6, 2010