in theaters: jang dong-gun in the warrior's way

The martial arts/western action flick The Warrior's Way, starring South Korean superstar Jang Dong-gun and directed by Sngmoo Lee, opens in theaters everywhere this weekend from Relativity Media. The movie, also starring Geoffrey Rush and Kate Bosworth, notably marks Jang's English-language debut. Here's the theatrical trailer:

Jang plays a master assassin who turns his back on his clan, finding refuge -- and a new life, hopefully -- in a nowhere town in the middle of American Badlands. But of course, if you happen to be the world's greatest swordsman, trouble always seems to find you. Here's the official synopsis:
After a lifetime of training in martial arts and swordsmanship, Yang has eliminated all but one of his clan's enemies-an infant whose smile instantly melts his heart. Unwilling to kill her and unable protect her from his own deadly tribe, Yang takes the baby girl and flees, planning to seek refuge with an old friend living in Lode, a frontier town in the American West. He arrives to find that his friend has died and the once-thriving Gold Rush town is in shambles, inhabited only by a few dozen eccentrics including Lynne, a beautiful, spirited knife thrower-in-training, and Ron, a worn-out drunk. In order to make a safe home for the child far from the reach of his murderous clansman, Yang decides to stay on as the town's new laundryman, sealing his sword for good.
I have seen the film, and while I really wanted it to be great, and admire what it's trying to do, I thought it was just okay. To be honest, I think I would have really enjoyed The Warrior's Way if it had been released, like, ten years ago. Then everything about it would've been fresh and new. As it stands, it's fairly derivative and a lot of it is reminiscent of stuff we've seen before -- and done better.

Rather than rattling off all the ways this movie falls short, I will say that I'm certainly glad that it showcases a strong, attractive, asskicking Asian male hero... even though he does happen to be a martial artist. I also appreciated that the story allows for romantic overtures between Yang and Kate Bosworth's character, Lynne. Hell, they even get to share a kiss (I'm not giving anything away -- it's in the trailer.)

I do want to note that The Warrior's Way happens to be the latest in a recent run of movies featuring Korean stars making their English-language debut. Like Ninja Assassin starring Rain and Blood: The Last Vampire starring Jeon Ji-hyun, it follows a certain template: a fairly mindless action movie with a strong, silent protagonist -- the perfect part for a first-time English actor, because most of the time all you really have to do is hold a giant sword and look badass.

That's fine... However, I'm just getting a little tired of the idea that when Asian actors make the leap over to Hollywood, it always has to be an action flick -- even when the actors themselves aren't necessarily martial artists or action stars. But I guess flying flips and samurai swords are what it takes to make an Asian person more palatable to American audiences, because that's what they've come to expect.

Anyway, while The Warrior's Way wasn't my thing, it might be yours. At the very least, you can marvel at how damn good-looking Jang Dong-gun is. For more information about The Warrior's Way, go to the movie's website here.

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