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Movie Review

Warrior's Way

West gets a lot wilder thanks to ninjas in ‘Warrior’s Way’

Jang Dong Gun and Kate Bosworth star in the action film. Jang Dong Gun and Kate Bosworth star in the action film. (Kristy Griffin)
By Tom Russo
Globe Correspondent / December 6, 2010

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And here the fanboys were thinking they’d have to wait for “Cowboys & Aliens’’ to see some preposterously hybridized western action. Turns out ninjas also spent some time on the frontier, at least in the stylized re-creation cooked up in “The Warrior’s Way’’ by first-time filmmaker Sngmoo Lee and Korean star Jang Dong Gun (“Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War’’). Jang is cast in dialogue-lite mode as Yang, the top assassin in a martial clan whose name, the Sad Flutes, refers to the sound their targets make after getting their throats sliced.

Cold stuff — but when Yang shows enough warmth to spare the life of a baby, the lone survivor of his clan’s sworn enemies, he’s targeted by his own people and forced into hiding. Yang and the baby land in a dusty American outpost called Lode, less for any logical reason than because mash-up junkies might pay to watch when Yang inevitably clashes with outlaws and his estranged ninja brothers.

Lee collaborated on the movie with a producer from “The Lord of the Rings,’’ shooting the project on a New Zealand soundstage against hyper-stylized green-screen backgrounds. In publicity write-ups, the filmmakers seem eager to draw comparisons to “300,’’ and it’s not a big reach. There’s definite zing to violent flourishes like Yang leaving a slow-mo trail of arterial mist in his wake, or attacking gunslingers through a dynamite-triggered haze, with only the ring of his blade and the gurgles of victims hinting he’s there.

Picture “300’’ striving for a whimsical second act, though, and you’ll understand where “Warrior’s Way’’ goes wrong for a long stretch. Lode might look like a ghost town, but it’s bustling with a host of characters and caricatures. There’s the spunky tomboy (Kate Bosworth, “Superman Returns’’), the boozy layabout (Geoffrey Rush, repurposing his “Pirates of the Caribbean’’ saltiness), and even, ugh, a displaced circus troupe led by ringmaster Eight-Ball (Tony Cox, Billy Bob Thornton’s “Bad Santa’’ sidekick). The only genuinely amusing bits skew dark, particularly Danny Huston’s terrifically squirmy scene-chewing as a rogue Civil War colonel terrorizing the town with his volatility and fetish for gals with good teeth.

While the movie seems designed to be a breakout for Jang, it’s Lee whose work actually makes an impression. You guess he’ll be back — hopefully, playing it straight next time.

Tom Russo can be reached at trusso2222@gmail.com.

THE WARRIOR’S WAY

Written and directed by: Sngmoo Lee

Starring: Jang Dong Gun, Kate Bosworth, Geoffrey Rush, Danny Huston, Tony Cox

At: Boston Common, Fenway, suburbs

Running time: 100 minutes

Rated: R (strong bloody violence)

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