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The Warrior’s Way

Circus folk get squished between rogue cowboys and vengeful ninjas in this strange bit of camp.

Jang Dong Gun must stand against a ninja army in the Wild West in The Warrior’s Way.

Yang (Dong-gun Jang: The Promise) is the greatest swordsman of mankind and the deadliest assassin of the Sad Flutes, a Korean warrior clan. He has become his own clan’s worst enemy, though, after failing to take the life of a baby girl for the sake of wiping out a rival clan. Escaping retribution, Yang flees with the child to America and into western badlands. There he settles in among sad carnies in a dead town and teaches a plucky dame how to wield a blade. But just as he seems to have found peace he must make a stand to save the baby from a ninja army even while defending the town against vicious outlaws.

Writer/director Sngmoo Lee’s debut film resembles an anime brought to life, less the existential philosophical conceits and androgynous villain. To liven the strangeness he pulls out the playbook for 300 and goes for broke, immersing his cast and props in a thick Technicolor stew of computer-generated atmospherics. Equally derivative are ubiquitous slow-motion to full-speed transitions in the battle scenes and a gristly narration by a warrior who survived the fray.

The visuals, for their part, are lush if surreal. Scenes from a battle in the marsh to the desert dust-up work are carefully crafted to immerse the viewer in Lee’s fantasy world, and the renderings are beautiful. The director excels at setting the stage, crafting bold and eccentric scenery and livening it with richly textured props and people. 

Yet Lee has eyes for little other than his paint by numbers game. It’s as though Lee sketched out the visuals and then worked out a summary tale to link the scenes. 

Bizarre casting rounds out the weirdness, and crucial roles fall flat. Lynne (Kate Bosworth: 21) never clicks as the pupil/romantic interest; Ron (Geoffrey Rush: The King’s Speech) is dull as a drunk with a forgotten past; and the colonel (Danny Huston: 2010’s Robin Hood) is a poorly conceived and realized villain. Extremely poor western accents come from every angle and only magnify the dearth of wit.

All told, The Warrior’s Way is a lot of flash and noise with no substance or even creative action. Fans of eccentric gimmick may find it winning, but really this is an utter waste of cowboys versus ninjas potential.

Poor Action • R • 100 mins.