AWFJ Women On Film – “The Warrior’s Way” – Review by Susan Granger

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The spaghetti Western rides again – in a chop suey variation.

The story begins in Korea, where cold-blooded assassin Yang (Dong-gun Jang) is heralded as “The Greatest Swordsman in the History of Mankind.” But he’s a softie at heart, as evidenced by his reluctance to butcher a burbling baby girl even after he’s slaughtered her parents, part of a rival clan. Scooping her up in his arms, he flees from the Far East to the Old West, winding up in Lode, a decrepit desert outpost once known as “The Paris of the West.” He’s befriended by Lynne (Kate Bosworth), an outgoing, flirt who, literally, has a tortured past. Dubbing him “Skinny,” she shows Yang around, introducing him to the eccentric circus/carnival folk, led by a pint-sized ringmaster, Eight Ball (Tony Cox), who hope that when they finish erecting their Ferris Wheel, it will revive the frontier town. Yang ingratiates himself by re-opening a Chinese laundry, growing flowers and teaching knife-throwing to Lynne, while having skirmishes with perpetually soused Ron (Geoffrey Rush), the town drunk, and the savagely perverted, facially disfigured Colonel (Danny Huston), who murdered Lynne’s family years earlier and periodically returns to make terrorizing forays into town.

Major problems arise, however, when Yang’s former mentor, Saddest Flute (Ti Lung) suddenly appears, along with a battalion of black-clad assassins who swoop ninja-style over the rooftops like a flock of demented crows, wreaking slicing-dicing vengeance.

Obviously influenced by “Shanghai Noon,” Jackie Chan’s story of an Asian princess and her protector in the Wild West, first-time feature screenwriter/director Sngmoo Lee (who earned a Master’s in Cinema Studies at NYU before founding the film department at Korean National University of the Arts) revels in the martial arts CGI, aided by cinematographer Kim Woo-hyung and production designer Dan Henneh. And Lee’s choice to use the toddler’s reaction shots to various stimuli, like stunts, fights, etc., elicits laughter every time.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Warrior’s Way” is a highly stylized, visually surreal 5, an overwrought, cliché-filled, wild and wacky kung-fu fantasy.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.