The Warrior’s Way is a clusterfuck of Sergio Leone and Frank Miller, of Karate Kid and The Pacifier, of martial arts and Western, of square dancing and opera, of fairy tale and blood-soaked tale of revenge, of 300 and Lonesome Dove, of Geek Love and a video game. It shouldn’t work, and for many, it may not. But for others, it works in the same way that Girl Talk can remix certain pieces of music that some may not normally like to create something derivatively fresh, like combining the pop-sensibilities of ABBA with the lyrics of Arlo Guthrie. There’s a certain amount of bastardization going on, but if you can allow yourself to look past the wholesale slaughter of sacred cows, there’s an entertaining flick buried beneath all the genre blood.
Dong-gun Jang stars as Yang, a soulless man raised to be an assassin for his clan, the Sad Flutes, engaged in a 500 Years War with another clan. He ultimately becomes The Greatest Swordsman in the History of Mankind (ever) and completely wipes out the other clan, but for the infant of the last survivor, which he’s been instructed by his master to kill. Yang can’t bring himself to murder the baby, so he straps the tyke on his back and takes off for America, where he makes a home in a tumbleweed town of unemployed circus freaks. There, he picks up skills he never had time to master, what with the murderin’, like laundry (he becomes the town’s laundry man) and gardening. He also falls for Lynne (Kate Bosworth), who carries herself around town like a sword-wielding Annie Oakley that’s so kooky wacko it’s almost charming.
All is well until The Colonel (Danny Huston), a ruthless cold-hearted, deliciously evil motherfucker who killed Lynne’s entire family, returns. Lynne nearly jumps out of her bustier at the opportunity to take down the Colonel, and Yang is forced to unshield his sword to save her. His old clan can hear that goddamn sword weep from the other side of America, and a whole army of no-face ninjas in bad ass black-leather kimonos combine with a platoon of Deadwood caricatures and swoop in on town full of sideshow acts, among them the sharp-shooting drunk (Geoffrey Rush), doing a Western version of his Pirates of the Caribbean character. What unfolds is a lot of ditsy special effects, cheap CGI, more green screen than even Geoffrey Rush can chew, a poor man’s Kill Bill vs. The Wild Bunch on a ferris wheel, and a town full of corpses.
Despite its derivative nature, however, The Warrior’s Way — from first-time director, Sngmoo Lee — also has a few original-looking and dazzling action sequences, in addition to one captivating desert ballroom dance with swords. While there’s plenty recycled Wachowski here, there are a few moments in The Warrior’s Way that will grab you by the throat and shake you, if you can stifle your guffaws.
Not that you should mistake Sngmoo Lee’s Netflix subscription for intelligence. The Warrior’s Way is a dumb fucking movie, and overacted to the point of embarassment. The dialogue is so boneheaded that, the few times that Yang speaks, you’ll wish he hadn’t, and it’s all too cartoonish to get very invested in. But when The Warrior’s Way isn’t beating you over the head with voice overs and mountains of exposition, it’s dazzling to look at and just batshit crackers enough to be entertaining.