Pretty much all one can glean from the trailers for The Warrior’s Way is that it has something to do with cowboys vs. ninjas. No one needs more than that honestly, but the film’s plot turned out to be surprisingly complex. While The Warrior’s Way doesn’t have the smallest budget in the world, it’s clearly a limited one, but the filmmakers spent what they had in all the right places.
Right off the bat, from the first scene to the last, what stood out to me most in The Warrior’s Way were the costumes. The costumes were over the top, and seem to have been inspired by Mortal Kombat and various space western animes like Trigun and Cowboy Bebop. I want one of the dusters that the cowboys wear, I can then officially change my middle name to McAsswhoop.
Beyond some quick action at the beginning of the movie, the first half of The Warrior’s Way is pretty damn slow. Combine this with a weak supporting cast and hit or miss acting, and I became pretty restless for action. The films protagonist, Yang (played by Dong-gun Jang), leaves his country and clan with the last living descendant of their rival clan, due to his inability to murder a baby. Yang ends up heading to the American West to find one of his old friends in a small circus town by the name of Lode. However, upon arrival he discovers that his friend is dead. From there, hardcore laundry service ensues (Don’t question.) The film then introduces a few different factions and the plot gets more complex than I had originally expected.
There are actually two antagonists in The Warrior’s Way. The first is The Sad Flute ninja clan and their leader, appropriately named Saddest Flute. The Sad Flutes are dead set on eliminating the last of their rival clan, and this faction as a whole reminds me of Ra’s Al Ghul’s assassins from Batman Begins. We also have The Colonel and his men, a rogue platoon who periodically hold the town of Lode hostage so the Colonel can rape their young girls. Clearly the Colonel is the enemy easiest to hate. When all three factions collide in the second half of the movie, it gets real.
There are a ton of gimmicks used to shoot The Warrior’s Way, but they are all well executed and seldom repeated. Battles that clearly borrowed from films like 300, Blade, Resident Evil, and the Matrix are brutally violent, and some of the more over the top deaths will have you laughing at their absurdity or cringing in pain. Yang is consistently dodging bullets and slicing his foes into pieces with lightning speed. Although the sword fights aren’t as epic, or as evenly matched, as those you would find in films like Hero or Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, they are still just as fun to watch.
The CGI in The Warrior’s Way is really hit or miss, and it’s clear the filmmakers distributed their funds carefully in this regard. A generic explosion that serves to push the narrative along may look horrible, like something from an early 90’s PC game, but a complex slow motion melee looks amazing, with blood, bullets, and limbs flying everywhere.
The good forgives the bad in The Warrior’s Way, and although it’s still pretty much what I was expecting, it’s not the disappointment I thought it would be. There have been far worse offerings this year in the action realm (I’m looking at you Expendables), so action fans shouldn’t miss this one.