Top critical review
5 of 5 people found this helpful
on 29 February 2012
A charmingly bonkers, highly stylised genre mash-up of Asian heroic swordplay movie, Western and circus flick blended together in New Zealand with a Korean star by the people who gave you Outlander, The Warrior's Way was an almost heroically suicidal way to lose $42m, but as long as you're not one of the investors or the many critics who gave it a kicking on it brief theatrical release, there's a lot to enjoy here. Jang Dong-gun is the impassive member of the Sad Flutes assassin clan who kills The Greatest Swordsman in the World (Ever) to become the new Greatest Swordsman in the World (Ever) only to blot his copybook by failing to kill the last child of a rival clan. Instead he runs away with the babe-in-arms to a no-horse ghost town in the Wild West where he sets up a laundry shop with a little prompting from Tony Cox's nutcracking circus dwarf and Kate Bosworth's frontiers gal. Naturally no sooner has he discovered the joys of making things clean and making things grow than Danny Huston's Phantom of the Opera-masked mad Colonel and his army of Hell Riders reappear to wreak havoc on the town once again. Will our hero come to their aid and unseal his sword, letting the voices of his victims reveal his identity to the vengeful clan? What do you think...?
If Cowboys and Aliens proved a hard sell to the public, Cowboys, Carnies and Ninjas proved an impossible one: even the poster art for this one was clueless and just threw in the towel. Even more than the premise, the film's tone is pretty off the wall - you'll need a sense of whimsy for this one to work for you. This is a film where every sky and sunset is gloriously painted with no thought of naturalism and where Javier Navarrete's score runs the gamut of spaghetti Western, Ry Cooder folk, slide-guitar rock, grand opera, weeping flutes, taiko drums, rhythmic machine-gun fire and sailor's hornpipe in a way that makes perfect sense in a film like this. Dong-gun makes a charismatic Eastern Eastwood, barely reacting to the insanity around him to great effect, and Kate Bosworth makes a good romantic and comic foil ("Dang, skinny, you sure know how to throw a dead cat into a party room, don't ya?") but a little of Danny Huston's OTT villainy goes a long way, and the quality does drop when he reappears, taking much of the film's charm with him as the matter-of-fact eccentricity gives way to a last half hour of unrelenting but frequently surreal action and exploding Ferris wheels. The other weak link, surprisingly, is Geoffrey Rush's town drunk with a secret, an underdeveloped role that only gives him a couple of good moments (not only the inevitably tragic backstory but his ending a bit of male bonding with a laundry request: "Get my jacket clean if you can. If I'm going to die, I want to look good doing it") and a lot he fails to bring much to.
The second half is never as much fun as it could be - as energetically staged as they are, this is one of those films where the action scenes are less memorable than the quieter moments - and it doesn't give The Good, The Bad, The Weird much competition in the Korean Western stakes, but it's still a lot more enjoyable than it's given credit for if you can go along with the weirdness. It's not a great film, but at times it is great fun. Bugger all by way of extras on the UK Blu-ray apart from a trailer, though.