If you’re anything like me you love Chinese action film, because while it has a tendency to get overly chatty and sometimes the pacing’s all off, you can’t deny the sheer beauty of their almost dance-like fight scenes. And what you’ll get today is a dose of Chinese action done American-style with The Warrior’s Way.
The Warrior’s Way follows Yang, who has just become the greatest swordsman in all history, which was his lifelong goal ever since he joined up with an assassin clan for reasons I will not spoiler here. Anyway, he’s not feeling very happy following his success, because just after he hits that mark as the greatest swordsman of all time, he’s got to immediately follow that up by skewering an infant. Feeling like that may well be the most massive letdown in all history, he rebukes his past and takes the baby as his own, and heads off for America where his old friend lives. But when he reaches the small Western town of Lode, where they’re still working on a massive half-finished Ferris wheel in order to get somebody–anybody!–to actually show up for their biggest feature, a traveling circus that stopped traveling, he finds his old friend is dead. Now, Yang’s left to take up his old friend’s place, and care for his infant enemy, but while life may seem simple and pleasant for him now, he discovers that the past will not stay as quiet as he’d wished.
This is one of those great movies with multiple factions all rushing together like that sweet Calvin and Hobbes comic in which Calvin envisions a horrible fate happening to a farmer involving a derailed train, a plane about to crash, an earthquake and a leaky gas main. You can pretty much imagine both what will happen to that farmer, and to Yang, who now serves as an analogue to that farmer.
The plot is downright lovely, with a beautiful contrast struck between Yang, Legendary Killer and Yang, Laundry Owner With A Passion For Floral Arrangement. Jang Dong-Gun does a decent if somewhat taciturn job here, but he’s got plenty of help from lovely Kate Bosworth, as well as comic relief / secret badasses Geoffrey Rush (Captain Barbossa from the Pirates of the Caribbean) and Tony Cox (the midget–little person–mastermind from Bad Santa).
The fighting choreography steals the show as incredibly intricate fight scenes will be carried out with alarming regularity, and while the plot itself may not win any awards, you’ll scarcely notice as you’re busily carried along by an oddly anachronistic machine gun going off in a hallway making strobe effects while Yang in Legendary Killer Mode goes sweeping through a horde of appropriately filthy outlaws.
It’s almost like the flip side of Sukiyaki Western Django, where that was an American-style Western staged in Japan, this is a Chinese action flick staged in a Western-style America.
But no matter what comparison you engage in, you’ll be terribly happy to know that this is unsettlingly good stuff, with plenty to like and even more to marvel at. Like a ballet staged in crystal being cut before our very eyes, it’s intricate, it’s action packed, and most people with any kind of fondness for action are going to love it.
The Screenhead Ten Scale gives this one a mind-blowing ten out of ten for managing to be both beautiful and filthy all at the same time. This may well be one of the best examples of action fare out there right now, and an absolute must-see.