The Warrior’s Way
Arguably, the most mixed-up, multicultural movie ever filmed, “The Warrior’s Way” combines a Korean heartthrob hero, an African American dwarf, several crusty Caucasian cowboys, some meek Mexicans and a slew of faceless fighters. All of these comic book-like characters come together in a frontier town inhabited by colorful circus performers who are periodically terrorized by renegade confederate soldiers.
Additionally, director Sngmoo Lee shot his action fantasy Asian western in New Zealand with a post-production crew of Korean CGI artists. Yet in spite of its outrageous story, this indescribable film is authentically entertaining.
Gorgeous Jang Dong Gun plays Yang, with droopy bangs draped sexily over one eye and is considered the strongest warrior his master ever trained. As an orphaned child, Yang is given a puppy as his only friend, but his master cruelly puts him to the test—which Yang passes.
However, as an adult, Yang cannot accomplish his final mission. After wiping out an entire enemy clan, save one, he discovers he has a heart after all. Scooping up the last remaining enemy heir, an infant girl, Yang boards a ship to Lode, U.S.A. in search of his old buddy, Smiley. Arriving at the remote outpost filled with outcasts, Yang learns that his friend is dead and is subsequently convinced to re-open Smiley’s laundry. Pause. Since when do Koreans own laundromats? Since Japanese ninjas started wearing Chinese hats like the ones in this movie do. The Asians portrayed in this film are so confusing to non-Asians that a Hollywood Reporter writer called Jang’s character a samurai!
Spending his days tending to the baby, hanging laundry, planting flowers and teaching the town hottie (Kate Bosworth) how to throw knives, Yang seals his sword to block it from sending a signal to the Sad Flutes clan he deserted. Hoping to live in domestic bliss with his baby and his babe, Yang manages to avoid unsheathing his weapon until the bullying soldiers return with their leering colonel, brutally played by Danny Huston.
There’s a lot of stuff going on in this movie—buckets of blood, bushels of laughs, and over the top performances by the likes of Geoffrey Rush as an alcoholic ex-gunslinger. Tony Cox is comic relief as a circus ringleader, but the real star is the kawaii baby girl who gurgles and pouts on cue. As for Jang, he’s way too pretty for such a violent role, although his swordplay is convincing.
Particularly captivating are the neon-splashed skies, the spinning camera angles, and the soundtrack, which includes the spray of machine gun fire clattering like a snare drum. Mixed-up and mismatched has never been so much fun.
The Agony and Ecstasy of Phil Spector
Speaking of being mixed-up, convicted murderer and music producer Phil Spector carries so much baggage he should get a job at the airport.
Obviously believing that his subject is innocent, director Vikrim Jayanti attempts to convey that in his documentary, “The Agony and Ecstasy of Phil Spector”. Presenting a soft-spoken, bewildered Spector with palsied hands, Jayanti allows him to whine about the injustice of his first trial’s verdict, which Spector blames on all 12 jurors voting for Bush.
While Spector’s musical genius is undeniably present in the soundtracks Jayanti weaves throughout the narrative, the man’s mammoth ego reveals his lust for power. Besides comparing himself to Da Vinci and Galileo, Spector also equates himself to ‘black people” who had to “get pissed” to fight for their rights.
The nuanced, multilayered symphonic tracks that became Spector’s trademark “Wall of Sound” seem to stem from his need to control everything. The eternal victim, Spector reveals that his first hit record, “To Know Him Is To Love Him” (which he sang with The Teddy Bears at 18) was about his father who killed himself when Spector was nine.
Known for filming larger than life figures, New York-born Jayanti also produced the Oscar-winning “When We Were Kings” (Muhammad Ali v. George Foreman). In an article for The First Post, Jayanti wrote that he tried to conceal his personal opinion that Spector wasn’t guilty. But he doesn’t try very hard.
“The Warrior’s Way” opens wide, December 3. “The Agony and Ecstasy of Phil Spector” opens December 3, at the Northwest Film Forum.