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‘Warrior’ loses its way

By Sister Helena Burns, FSP | Contributor
Sunday, December 19, 2010

In “The Warrior’s Way” writer-director Sngmoo Lee offers up a martial arts film (“Crouching Tiger” style) with a surrealist twist. But it’s also a Western and a comedy that doesn’t really work. Catholic News Service gave it an “O” rating, that is, morally objectionable.

In “The Warrior’s Way,” Yang, a ninja warrior (South Korean actor Jang Dong-gun — a fine thespian) spares the life of a baby princess from a rival tribe, and flees to America’s wild West to hide. He runs a laundry, plants a flower garden and meets tomboy Lynne (Kate Bosworth) whom he teaches the art of fighting with knives and swords.

The town is filled with all the usual suspects — the town drunk (the awe-inspiring Geoffrey Rush), the savage U.S. Calvary Colonel (Danny Huston, who surpasses even Dong-gun’s quality performance, no wonder: his father is director John Huston, his halfsister is Anjelica Huston), the short man from the circus (Tony Cox) — who don’t really seem to have much of a connection to each other until the final showdown when they band together to save their collective necks.

There is much (even some mostly-hinted-at sexual) sadistic violence and carnage. The long, final battle is pure, gratuitous, choreographed, ain’t-it-cool violence.

What’s most disquieting is that cute-as-a-button Lynne (because her whole family was murdered) has a huge taste for revenge that the usually quiet and dignified Yang makes sure she gets to satisfy this taste.

There’s something just wrong about women warriors, killer girls. When did we start to see a proliferation of them in film? But, we shouldn’t be too surprised at Yang, because he is a trained assassin who must “destroy everything he loves,” and his ninja-master comes to the land of the free and the home of the brave to remind him so.

The love story build-up is slow and sweet as the lovers get to know each other as people, and each other’s deepest values and dreams. Films are supposed to find new ways to say “I love you” and “Warrior’s” does. Quite well.

The ethic at the end — which has been simmering throughout — is so profoundly un-Christian, un-life-affirming and un-theology-of-the-body (but so are many classic Westerns) that nothing short of a round rejection, a sounding “strongly disagree” is in order.

Or, as the movie would say: We should “put the greatest distance between” ourselves and this film.