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The Warrior’s Way (2010)

by on 2012/02/26

“The warrior learned there’s a heck of a lot more pleasure making things grow, than there is in cutting them down.”

* * * *

When I was 15 years old, my mother sent me to a community college in a small neighbouring town. I had shown some promise as a painter, and this school – known mostly for its beekeeping and agricultural programs – was holding an intensive watercolour course taught by local artists.

I lived alone in the dingy residence and spent my days painting landscapes of big Albertan skies on thick pieces of paper made of cloth. I learned the wet-on-wet technique, swabbing paper with water and then watching the paint with its little spidery tendrils of colour around the edges bloom out in the damp.

I hadn’t thought much about that stint in art school and my time communing with watercolours, until I watched The Warrior’s Way this week.

I had been aching – literally aching – to see this movie for months. The trailer had me in its thrall. Watch it, you’ll see. I didn’t care what the reviews said. It had to be mine.

And given this month is fantasy month on, and the Warrior’s Way has some swords in it, I thought I would slip this one in.

So I did. And this movie, directed by  Sngmoo Lee, is in equal parts, a beautiful, violent watercolour painting, a surreal cartoon and R-rated, old-timey melodrama.

Blood blooms out slowly across the frame like red paint on rice paper.  A little person (Tony Cox) with the number 8 painted in blue on his head plays the enforcer with a spiked glove and a crotch-high reach. A scarred, leather-faced villain preys on women with perfect teeth.

The story involves a legendary warrior named Yang (Jang Dong Gun). He is very good at a very bad job. He’s an assassin tasked with killing off every single last member of an enemy clan. He’s doing just fine with the hacking and the slashing until he’s ordered to kill an infant – a laughing baby girl.

His refusal to kill the girl is a death sentence, so he leaves Asia and hops a ship bound for America with his unnamed, giggling companion in tow. Searching for a fellow warrior named “Smiley,” Yang arrives in a ruined dustbowl of a town called Lode, “The Paris of the West.”

A broken-down battered carnival, displaced circus folk, a blown up hotel/saloon really adds to the surreal. Rounding out the crazy are Ronald (Geoffrey Rush) the town drunk, and Lynne (Kate Bosworth) a knife-throwing redhead.

This movie almost redeemed Rush (Pirates of the Caribbean) for me. Almost. He’s convincing as a drunk and gunslinger with a dark past. But I can’t declare him forgiven just yet as I did see an awful lot of his ass crack. (The key word there is awful).

Jang Dong Gun is absolutely great. Great. Great. Yang and Lynne are charming as master and student. Rush is entertaining dead shot who spends most of his time being dead er, drunk.

This painterly film, with cinematography by Woo-Hyung Kim, is magic mushroom crazy in the way Takashi Miike-directed Suyiyaki Django was dribbling, drooling crazed.

Fortunately I like crazed. And warriors. And swords.

And Ninjas…Damn.

* * * *

100 minutes

Rated R for bloody violence and Geoffrey Rush’s pale white bum

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