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Review

Rapid action elevates violent film

Michael Brun

December 9, 2010

Sngmoo Lee’s “The Warrior’s Way” is the surprise action hit of the year.

It is an operatic masterpiece of style and tone that will keep your eyes wide and your mouth agape.

With hints of “300,” “Kill Bill” and “The Fifth Element” at its core, this taught actioner is undeniably cool.

It’s east meets west in this tale of a ninja forced into exile after refusing to kill the last member of a rival clan—a cute baby girl with an adorable laugh.

Now hunted by his own clan, the ninja flees to America where he is taken in by a band of misfit carnival folk in a dilapidated Old West town.

But after a sadistic outlaw attacks the town for rape and plunder, the ninja must return to his murderous ways to protect his new friends.

You would not suspect it, but “The Warrior’s Way” is actually the theatrical debut for writer/director Sngmoo Lee.

He may not have much experience, but his eye for action is as sharp as a ninja’s blade. Even in a year dominated by big-name action movies, “The Warrior’s Way” stands out as a remarkable piece of action cinema.

The fight choreography is like visual poetry, and Lee captures it with the precision of an old pro.

Making his stateside debut is star Dong-gun Jang.

The seasoned South Korean actor is among the most successful in the world, but until now has been a relative unknown in the land of Hollywood.

He brings a quiet confidence to the role of the ninja, Yang.

Although he has only a handful of lines throughout the movie, he never loses the eagle-eyed stare of a trained killer.

They say actions speak louder than words — when you see Jang in action, you will believe it.

The first thing you will notice watching “The Warrior’s Way” is its style.

The movie was shot using a green-screen/CGI fusion technique akin to “Sin City” and “300.”

The actors perform with a minimal amount of props, while the rest of the set and background are filled in with computer graphics.

It gives the movie a surreal quality; like a halfway point between live-action and animation.

For a movie about a three-way battle of ninja, cowboys and carnies, such a surreal visual style is certainly fitting.

The second thing you are likely to notice about this movie is how expertly paced it is.

From its opening battle to its absolutely epic finale, “The Warrior’s Way” is a rapid-fire spectacle.

It has enough expository elements to get you invested in the cast, but won’t bore you with trite melodrama or meaningless side stories.

There is not a single wasted frame to be found in this compact action feast.

With its harmonious mix of action, comedy and heart, “The Warrior’s Way” is an extravaganza unlike anything you will see at the theater this year.

It is definitely too violent for the little ones, but this imaginative tale is sure to bring out your inner child.

Michael Brun is an alumnus of UW-River Falls.