It doesn’t make a lot of sense to give a first time writer/director $45 million to make what amounts to Ninjas vs. Cowboys. It’s stranger yet to bring in a distinctly Korean vibe, trying to blend that with distinctly Western themes, a circus freak show, and “unknown in America” star Dong-gun Jang (Tae Guk Gi).
It was, of course, a box office failure, the studio undoubtedly feeling the sting of doing something so utterly distinct, different, and frenzied. Movie audiences are a fickle bunch, complaining about cliches and familiarity, then devastatingly ignoring such a brazen, unmistakeable dash of the unique.
Warrior’s Way isn’t some grand experiment where everything goes right. It’s narrative structure is devoid of the expected, the barrage of green screen to produce such magnificent sights is tiring, and the very idea of a surrealist western could be off-putting to many. If it is though, those selected people are missing out on a zany, off-the-wall, anything goes universe.
That’s what works. Warrior’s Way thinly develops and moves on. It’s not worried about specific expectations or cliches. It’s here to blow things up, clash some swords, and present a visual flurry unlike anything else out there. It’s wildly successful if you can just relax, take in the opening scene as ninjas spring up out of the water for a 20-on-1 attack. The one wins of course, a flash of video game-like flair that is only the beginning of the chaos.
Warrior’s Way is as paper-thin as the ninjas and cowboys destined for mutilation, Yang (Jang) settling into a western town after disgracing his assassin clan. He carries with him clothes and a small child, the remaining member of his rivals, teaching a young woman his ways while waiting for the vengeful appearance of his own master.
It’s easy to fault the film for not even taking the time to establish any semblance of narrative flow, because once past the narration it feels like a visually remarkable montage connected to nothing. It does find a way to break through, and in the process, producing a film that is absurdly visual, very much taking part in its own devices. It’s unabashedly goofy, but it makes no apologies for being so. Warrior’s Way sticks to its guns, never pretending to mimic or copy anything except the basics. You have to appreciate that. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Movie]
What can you possibly make of a film that looks like this? It never settles down, carrying such a variety in the visual flair that blanket statements undoubtedly fall apart somewhere in this 90-minute ride. One thing that is (mostly) consistent though is the color, the palette cheaply utilizing the teal/orange contrast with some regularity, although quickly backdropped with rich sunsets or banding free night skies.
Warrior’s Way is given a contrast that won’t quit, by the end literally blazing. This one is bright, keeping the light tone of the script in check with a harsh, bitter appearance. Black levels take over on the opposite end, feeding the material a fresh sense of depth with each edit. They’re unapologetic in their work, losing out on a rare occasion where the effects become overwhelming.
Grain can spike, certainly a result of the computer generated stuff lingering in the background. Otherwise, it controls itself, cleanly resolved by a flawless AVC encode. It has more to handle than just grain, the action always in a flurry, casting a shroud of smoke over the image which this compression spits out like it’s nothing.
Even better, this one is textured to the tip of the hilt, facial detail truly amazing in its range, definition, and clarity. Nothing gets past this one, the number of potential examples too many to count. Lighting is obviously focused heavily on actor’s faces, meaning this Blu-ray was primed to succeed from the moment the primary shooting was complete. Thankfully, it does with seemingly little effort, and the end result is a just a stunning example of what hi-def can offer. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Video]
If the video believed it was unstoppable, the audio mix would make it beg for forgiveness and mercy. This track could care less if a significant other or neighbor doesn’t like loud noises. It’s goal is to simply tick them off by throwing everything onto its plate, then send it behind the listener with enough left over to devastate the sub woofer.
It takes seconds for this one to find a kick-start, Yang sending a series of knives off-screen, the tracking of this mix substantial enough to do multiple double takes as they pass. Bass is ridiculous as the ninja clan drops to the ground from their absurdly grand entrance, only to be surpassed later by the unmatched frenzy coming from a machine gun, some dynamite explosions, and horse hooves pounding with each step.
When all this one has to reproduce is modern day, razor sharp dialogue, it’s almost a relief. Breaks in the action are appreciated, at least for a little bit before the viewer gets antsy for more. This track is sort of like a drug, teasing with a taste then causing a need for more. When that comes, it only creates added potential for the next battle. This is ear porn. [xrr rating=5/5 label=Audio]
Labeled a behind-the-scenes montage, a two and a half minute clip is no more than a promo featurette with some footage from the set. Calling it a montage is misleading. On top of that, you get 13 deleted scenes that just break past the 12-minute mark. Not very exciting. [xrr rating=1/5 label=Extras]