I wasn't expecting much from The Warrior's Way, which seemed to come and go from theaters before I ever saw its trailer. South Korean actor Jang Dong-gun stars as Yang, a 19th-century warrior banished from Asia for disobeying a direct order, and the supporting cast includes Kate Bosworth and Geoffrey Rush. To my surprise, The Warrior's Way is a highly entertaining martial arts/western mash-up with more than a little Looney Tunes thrown into the mix.
After chopping an entire enemy clan to bits, Yang is ordered to kill the clan's princess, who is an adorable, defenseless baby (Analin Rudd). Yang decides instead to grab the child and run to the American West, where he shacks up with Lynne (Bosworth), a spunky maiden with a dark past, and befriends Ron, the town drunk. Conflict comes at the hands of both the Colonel (Danny Huston), who previously killed Lynne's family, and the oncoming warriors looking to punish Yang for his disobedience.
The first thing The Warrior's Way gets right is its Chaplin-esque comedic tone. Yang is a fish out of water in the desert, and the film wisely allows him to flounder about town with a good-natured grin as he acclimates to his American surroundings. Lynne is an aspiring Annie Oakley, and begs Yang to teach her knife throwing and sword fighting. What follows is an enjoyable comedy of errors as Yang attempts to make Lynne proficient in combat. Baby April can only look on and gurgle as Lynne nearly impales Yang with her throwing knives.
The Warrior's Way also arrives with the rare R rating. Where similar films pander to younger audiences with a PG-13, The Warrior's Way can include some fun, exaggerated carnage à la 300. Amid the broad comedy is an actual villain in the Colonel, who is at once a caricature and a real threat for the town. The Colonel has a habit of killing on a whim, and he is the only man who rivals Yang in combat skills.
In his film debut, Director Sngmoo Lee shows himself surprisingly adept at directing for an American audience and stretching a limited budget. Much of The Warrior's Way was shot in front of a green screen, and the sets have a pleasing, cartoonish appearance. The action may not be revolutionary, but the staged fight scenes are fun and competently edited. Lee shows a knack for composition, and The Warrior's Way features plenty of colorful shots and interesting camera angles.
Yang may be a man of few words, but Jang is believable in both combat and comedic situations. Bosworth nails cute for her character, and Huston has the menacing scowl needed for his stock villain character. The Warrior's Way is a pleasant send-up of overly serious martial arts pictures and westerns, and its tone reminded me a lot of Kung Fu Hustle. You could do a lot worse than a night at home with this overlooked film.
Fox gives The Warrior's Way an excellent 2.40:1/1080p/AVC-encoded transfer that replicates the film's distinct appearance. The image ranges from cold and sharp to warm and soft, depending on the scene, and the Blu-ray handles the transitions nicely. On the whole, detail and texture are excellent, right down to the individual grains of sand visible when Yang and Lynne are fighting in the desert. The crisp, steely blues of night and the burnt oranges of day are equally well saturated, and I noticed no bleeding. Skin tones are accurate, blacks deep and a thin layer of grain gives the image a film-like appearance. I noticed no instances of compression artifacts, digital noise reduction or edge enhancement. Some effects-heavy scenes are less clear, but I suspect this has a lot to do with how they were created.
The film's 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is similarly impressive. Dialogue is clear and comes from the center channel as well as the surround speakers when characters are out of shot. The surround and rear speakers are both used for the spectacular effects, which range from the galloping of horses across the desert to the sounds of heads getting lobbed off by Yang's steel blade. Directional sounds are common and well executed, and the track's effects and score are deep and ground-shaking. This great action track is accompanied by a French 5.1 Dolby Digital track and English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles.
EXTRAS AND PACKAGING:
The Warrior's Way arrives on Blu-ray in a two-disc set. The first disc is the Blu-ray, and the second disc is for the included digital copy. A shiny slipcover is included with the Blu-ray's first pressing.
Extras are sparse and include a brief Behind-the-Scenes Montage (2:25) and some deleted scenes (12:11).
This one breezed through theaters without eliciting much of a response, but The Warrior's Way is a lot of fun. Legendary warrior Yang ends up in the American West after disobeying his handlers and meets a crew of characters in a town under the boot of a vicious military officer. Part western, part martial arts thriller and part Looney Tunes, The Warrior's Way is quick, unassuming entertainment. Fox's Blu-ray offers excellent picture and sound but lacks substantial extras. Recommended.
William lives in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.