Slipping into theaters this week, “The Warrior’s Way” doesn’t bring any awards pedigree, a huge cast or any kind of prerelease buzz. In fact, the film wasn’t even screened in advance for critics, something that usually suggests the studio has little faith in the film.
And while “The Warrior’s Way” isn’t very good, I will give it credit for exceeding expectations - a mildly entertaining diversion that I could see myself revisiting if nothing else was on at 3 a.m. Fans of action films should be satisfied.
Melding about three or four genres into one huge pot, “The Warrior’s Way” tells the story of Yang (Dong-gun Jang) - a hired assassin who aspires to be the greatest warrior in the history of the world.
When he refuses to complete his latest mission, Yang is forced to hide out - retreating to a run-down town in the American west. There he meets a group of vagabond circus performers - including a plucky young girl named Lynne (Kate Bosworth) and a drunken sharpshooter named Ron (Geoffrey Rush).
It doesn’t take long for Yang to find himself right in the middle of the town’s battle with an evil lawman (Danny Huston). The stakes are raised when Yang’s enemies also converge on the town - turning the secluded area into a battle zone.
Part martial arts film, part western, there are moments that actually work in “The Warrior’s Way” - making it a step or two above mediocre. Writer/director Sngmoo Lee gives the film a visual flair, although the film feels a little repetitive by the final act.
The cast is OK as well. Jang is limited by the language barrier, but does fine. Bosworth is a welcome sight, while Rush has fun in a role that is a long way from his Oscar-winning work in “Shine.”
There really isn’t anything glaringly awful about “The Warrior’s Way,” but it isn’t something that demands to be seen on the big screen. This is nothing more than a mindless diversion best to be saved for Netflix or late-night cable.
DVD dandy of the week
This week’s dandy is “The Other Guys” (B) - a consistently funny spoof of buddy cop films starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg.
They play Allen and Terry, two New York detectives confined to desk duty - Allen by choice and Terry because of an unfortunate shooting of New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter.
When the precinct’s most high-profile duo (hilarious cameos from Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson) are forced out of action, Terry sees this as a chance to get back on the street. Allen reluctantly agrees and they stumble into an investigation that centers on a shady capitalist named David Ershon (Steve Coogan).
This is the film Kevin Smith tried to make in his last effort, “Cop Out,” which proved to be more of a rehash of the buddy cop movie than an actual satire. While “The Other Guys” does rely on some of the buddy formula, it also manages to expand on it, taking the story in some silly directions.
Ferrell and Wahlberg prove to be a solid comedy team, with Wahlberg actually being more outgoing and Ferrell not quite in Ricky Bobby or Ron Burgundy territory (although there are some moments that do evoke both of those characters).
The supporting cast is also pretty solid, including Michael Keaton as the detectives’ supervisor moonlighting at Bed Bath & Beyond and Eva Mendes as Allen’s wife.
The film is a little uneven, with the first hour raising the bar so high that it loses some steam in the second hour. But it is a small flaw in a film that is every bit as funny as “Step Brothers,” “Anchorman” and “Talladega Nights” - perhaps even a tick better. It’s certainly a comedy that, like the other three films, can stand the test of time - and multiple viewings.
“The Other Guys” is rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, language, violence and some drug material, and will be available on DVD on Tuesday.