This really, really isn't the sort of film I should like. Not many other people did looking at the reviews on 'Rotten Tomatoes'. Thirty eight per cent is not good! But there is no accounting for taste, and I actually enjoyed this very unusual film. It is a bizarre mix of martial arts, western, surreal cinema and graphic novel in the DC comics vein. It is perhaps best compared to the work of Zack Snyder, with similar amounts of blood letting. But this is a quite bewitching form of blood letting that becomes a sort of hypnotically beautifully mutated cousin of the old Sam Peckinpah westerns. Nowhere near as good as those great films I will add! Snyder's "300" contained similar scenes that are visually stunning to look at. I recall the colourful Persian cavalry riding into action, and their troops being hurled back over a precipice. You may well wonder where on earth I am coming from if you hate all this stuff, and it is not easy to explain it myself.
The East meets West film has been tried before. Most who are old enough will remember the TV series "Kung Fu". There was also the interesting western "Red Sun" where Charles Bronson teamed up with Samurai warrior Toshiro Mifune. In this film Korean actor Jang Dong Gun, a good name for a western character, is the displaced warrior. A master swordsman who has singlehandedly eradicated an opposing clan, he makes the cardinal sin of sparing one small baby. He is now forced to flee to America from his own clan who are not best pleased with him. Forgiveness is not a top priority for this bunch of bloodthirsty ninjas. They too decide to do some sightseeing in America. Everyone ends up at the crumbling frontier town of "Lode" with its strange assortment of circus characters, who look as if they have just come off the set of an Alexander Jodorowsky movie. Throw in a particularly nasty villain on top of the ninja assasins and as you can imagine there is quite a fest of slow motion gore. Fountains of the stuff in fact!
If you are the type of person who likes a credible story in his film or a profound theme, then forget it. This film is more about stylish action and arresting visuals. To this end it works very well. Kate Bosworth makes a very fetching sort of Calamity Jane character. There are some lovely scenes of her swordfighting with Gun under the starry night skies. Jang Dong Gun doesn't have too much to say, presumably because he didn't speak the lingo too well, but screen presence he has in abundance and looks the part. Aussie actor Geoffrey Rush does a funny impersonation of a boozy frontiersman who can shoot a bit. Danny Huston has a lot of fun, and gets all the best lines as a very 'Phantom of the Opera' looking villain. The town of Lode is well realised with the giant Ferris wheel dominating the town. Quite how it got there we never get to find out! The circus characters and the rhythmically flashing blades give the film a very otherwordly feel. The film certainly doesn't take itself too seriously, and neither should you. In that respect it is very similar to that other recent western hybrid "Jonah Hex". Like that film this one provides relatively simple popcorn munching enetertainment, that is elavated to the slightly above average by the occasional stunning visuals. Unusual and not all that bad. 3.6 rounded up to a generous 4 stars.