Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The Warrior's Way: Ninja Assassins and Blowing Shit Up in the Old West

The Warrior's Way is a beautifully shot, silly little film that's apparently been stuck in post-production for years. This doesn't surprise me, as anybody who starts mixing genres is going to have some trouble with marketing. In this case, it's a mix of martial arts movie + western, with all the silliness that that implies. In fact, there's even more silliness than that, as our martial arts hero exiles himself to America and takes up in a town largely populated by a defunct circus troop where he takes over an old friend's laundry business and starts teaching the local tomboy how to throw knives and cut people up.

Yes, I'm serious.

And if that description didn't pique your interest, this is not the movie for you.

In the Far East, a super assassin, the "best swordsman in the world - ever" kills every member of a rival clan save one. He saves this child and exiles himself to the American west to a small, decripit little town that has suffered under the tyrannic rule of some random group of Bad Guys. I'm not really sure why the Bad Guys are terrorizing this town. Or why they terrorized the town once, apparently, and then just came back a few years later for the sake of the plot to terrorize it again. You know they're bad guys mainly because they try to rape the heroine (twice) and because they kill people indiscriminately. Why do they do this? No frickin' clue. Because the plot says they do. Handwave, handwave.

As our hero begins to rebuild his life among the circus freaks and with our tomboy heroine, he is also hunted by the members of his assassin's guild, who are pissed off that he didn't kill the last member of their rival clan. They believe that the only way to truly "win" the war against the clan is to kill the last member. After all, when she grows up she will just start to hunt them down, and the whole cycle will start again.

Kate Bosworth of Blue Crush fame (she will always be "that chick from Blue Crush" to me) plays our heroine, a scrappy tomboy whose family was murdered by aforementioned Bad Guys. She scarred the one who tried to rape her by throwing hot oil in his face (a touch which reminded me of the scar that Red Sonja gives the Evil Queen, after the guards rape Red Sonja. Nothing new under the sun). This incident, of course, inspires her to take up arms to seek revenge (whenever he rolls back into town? Or has he been periodically visiting and she just hides? Who knows), and now she practices throwing knives. Before our hero entered the scene, his predecessor was also teaching her how to weild a blade. So, you can see how I'd appreciate this movie, despite the ridiculous and annoying and overdone near-rape scenes.

There's a lot to like in this movie if you're willing to sit back, relax, and giggle along. They're pretty clear about what kind of movie it is right from the get-go, with supertitles that tell us the assassin on the screen is now the "Best swordsman in the world - ever." It's a silly little romp that spends a lot of time planting flowers in the desert only to blow them up (literally and metaphorically).

The fight scenes are pretty spectacular, the blood is over the top, and it has a couple of really great lines. My favorite is when the hero finds our heroine trying to throw knives, and she's missing her target. He turns to her and says, "It's not your arm that shakes. It's your heart." Somehow, blindfolding her and taking a few good lessons with the hero cures her of this (handwave, handwave), but it wouldn't have been nearly as good a movie if she didn't get her revenge, too.

I appreciated that she had her own story arc. I didn't appreciate that (spoiler, duh) she gets stuck with the kid at the end, which was pretty much the stupidest thing in the whole world based on everything that came before. What, she had a kid sister once so she knows something about kids? I guess she did make the kid a diaper when they rolled into town, so she must be the perfect person to give a kid to?

Arg.

Of course, by then most folks are dead, so there's not a lot of other options.

At any rate, the movie stuck to its mixed genres. Plenty of martial arts action, stoic hero, *and* it's western sensibilities - random bad guys, big shootouts, plucky heroine. This movie was about fifty million times more fun than half the crap that's out right now, but it's going to have a much narrower audience because, yeah, weird little movie with ridiculous plot holes. Geoffrey Rush even shows up as a filthy, drunken marksman. Weird, I know.

Depending on your taste, this might be a fun film to see after a couple of beers. Don't expect anything profound, but if you want to see some stuff get blown up, cut up, shot up, and giggle at movie tropes (and roll your eyes at ridiculous rape-means-we're-bad bad guys) while a red-headed heroine throws knives, this could be fun.


Also, circus freaks. Blood feuds. Ninja assassins.

Sometimes I suspect I was just delighted that they'd gotten all of these ridiculous things into one movie.

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