Nov 5, 2011

The Warriors Way

With the extended release of products like The Matrix, Rush Hour, and The Last Samurai did Hollywood finally make its presence known and its intentions accepted. Accepting the appeal of cross-continent theater fares, it seemed overnight that the formula of East + West = "cool". Perhaps it was the techno-zen of the messianic "One" or even the sudden and obnoxious intrusion of Brett Ratner's smash hit Rush Hour. Regardless of the streamlined roots of this craze, one that has always been hidden beneath the dormant floorboards of the box office, one thing was for certain - American audiences devoured it. Enter the effects of the Wu-tang Clan, translated anime cassette tapes, the circlejerk that is Kill Bill, and Sanrio's mass roll-out of memorabilia and what you will find is that as often as the East is credited to adopting a largely Western ideal, we too, have exhibited symptoms of an impression left on us (although not in a traditional sense). For us it seems to be a fanaticism with no real intention on becoming permanent. This became apparent with the release of Ninja Assassin (2009), an idea so laughable it transcended novelty and leapt directly into its tomb where scripts go to die. Films like these play hooky with the thought of Asiatic stoicism/vigilantism then return home safely with no harm done - utter child's play. One could think that our Western vision is impervious of foreign influence (but how wrong you'd be). What Ninja Assassin adopted was a Western approach to romantic/action storytelling and with coating it with the sauce of Orientalism, had hoped to create a enigmatic character likable enough for a box office Eastern feast. As you can imagine, Ninja Assassin proved to be one of the worst films of 2009. With the slate wiped clean Sngmoo Lee debuted with The Warriors Way, the very same principle except overdosed on steroids reeking of sickening stylization.

Starring Dong-gun Jang, a personal favorite whose many roles encompass several classics (Friend, The Coast Guard, Taegukgi), The Warriors Way took to creating a hybrid all-too literal by crossing a shadowy ninja clan and thrusting them directly into a wild west scenario guilty of minuscule steam-punk influences. After slaying an entire clan on orders of his own, The Sad Flutes, Yang is frozen in his tracks at the sight of the sole surviving member, an infant. Putting his sword to rest and freeing the infant of its cradle, Yang flees the country after severing threads with his clan and jumps aboard a ferry navigating blindly across the stretch of sea. As wanderers do, Yang suddenly finds himself in a sleepy, sickly town whose only life is a waning carnival act. After learning the ways of these people as well as withstanding ridicule and expressing these questionable traits known as emotions, Yang's new home is stalked by his past as well as the town members' own. Like Lone Wolf and Cub before it, The Warriors Way idly juxtaposes beast & baby with a hint of babe (Kate Bosworth) in one of those senseless demonstrations of the monster-with-a-heart device. The film essentially just sputters along with images of the "greatest swordsman who ever lived" performing trivial tasks like "bonding" or doing laundry. The entire ruse of cheating the runtime builds up to the last 40 minutes in which the nature of time is slaughtered in favor of slo-motion scenes of Yang catapulting through the air with delayed spurts of arterial spray following in his jacketed wake. Once the villainous Danny Huston and his bucking cowboy crew meet the Sad Flutes, the level of silly skyrockets into the territory of being wildly unbelievable. For all it had going for it, strictly being on a scale of hardened entertainment, I feel that The Warriors Way wasn't as unnecessarily violent as I would have liked it to be. You never get the sense that his blade and all its soul-sadness, can do any real harm. There's visual mention of the rare head or arm tossed about but only a handful of quick images to support the timid nature of its existence. In fact, The Warriors Way could have just as easily been a PG-13 rated flick and not had any qualms with the idea.

When it boils down to the story of Yang's blade, the action is represented only by blood splatters. I imagined severed limbs, multiple decapitations, and rowdy brutality, something in the same vein as Ninja Assassin (the opening scene being the only decent thing in this case). What I got instead was akin to picking a shy, conservative dame of many Eastern-Western broads. Of this particular formula I'd have to say that The Warriors Way was of the more enjoyable go-arounds with entertaining a ludicrous synopsis. I don't mean to put a spin regarding the actual quality of the film. The Warriors Way is what you'd imagine from the looks of it - stupid, overloaded with digital set-pieces, lacking any distinct aesthetic, overburdened with time manipulation, and to top it all off, boasting a pitiful excuse for romance. When and if you can manage to set aside your differences with the artificial nature of this film, however, you can find it within yourself to actually become engaged by this hammy and juvenile procedure in extirpation of conventions. If you, like me and many others, were sickened and revolted by the excess of Ninja Assassin then mayhaps the candy-painted ninja-western The Warriors Way can provide to you what the aforementioned couldn't. To a degree of certainty, I can validate a sort of inner-warmness towards Yang's plight-with-fight and would enjoy seeing more of his bloody adventures in the future. If your wish is to see an inventive film relating to a ninja assassin the answer shouldn't be anymore clearer than it is with this. The Warriors Way may be shit but it's shit that I don't mind enjoying, even advocating, and in the end, that's all that really counts.



Pzykoskillz said...

I just watched it yesterday on Netflix. It wasn't very good, but I still managed to enjoy it. I've never been a fan of all the CGI crap they put in movies now.

Soiled Sinema said...

Fair enough and agreed. I might just be partial to the many personas of Dong-gun Jang.


steve prefontaine said...

It is odd how such a lot of supposed "shit" movies turn out to be marvellously entertaining and how so girl-y supposed "Masterworks" turn out to be incredibly boring and tedious and are almost completely devoid of any entertain-girl-t value in the traditional sense. A bizarre contra-twat-ion and one which does rather make a total nonsense of the Oscars (and all so-called movie award ceremonies for that matter).