When researching “The Warrior’s Way”, the one and pretty much only thing that got my attention was that the leading man, Jang Dong Gun, would get a kiss from the female opposite, Kate Bosworth. Anything else came secondary, and I had little expectations for this movie.
I’m still amazed that I walked away with a new favorite film.
Where to begin? Jang Dong Gun, who has starred in box-office hits like Chingoo and Tae GukKi, was the attractive, masculine hero, swooping in at the right moments to save the day and the dame. Kate Bosworth played a bright and bubbly country bumpkin with an agenda of her own, which included stealing a kiss from the alpha Asian. There was the most adorable happa baby to ever exist with equally adorable acting skills, and…did I mention it was NINJAS vs. COWBOYS?!
Yeah, it was pretty kickass.
Unfortunately, not many people agreed with me – I was one of five people in the theater on the opening day, and I’m pretty sure none of them enjoyed it quite like I did. Granted, the fight scenes were greeted with awe and the filming was insightful and artistic. I’m sure neither of these things escaped the viewers. What I feel many people missed is the message the director was trying to send: what the races of the actors expressed about this attempt to rewrite Hollywood’s racial roles. These things seem minuscule to a typical movie-goer, but to me, it was one of the most ground-breaking moments in cinematic history.
Take, most obviously, the Asian male lead. While he is from South Korea and not Asian-American, the fact that an Asian was cast as a lead, despite the martial-arts background of the movie, is still very uncommon. Place a non-Asian female lead as his love interest that he actually gets to kiss and we already have something beautiful but very rarely seen. In addition, it is crucial to make note that she kissed him; this portrays that women find Asian men attractive. Let that sentence sink in – women find Asian men as a sex symbol, a love interest, a romantic partner. It was a glorious thing to behold.
Supporting roles and race were also incredibly important. Geoffrey Rush, most recent notable movies include the Pirates of the Caribbean series, was the town drunk with secret sniping skills that aided our hero in ridding the town of evil. And, just as the good guys had an Asian and a White man, evil did too. The sleepy Western town was caught in the grasp of a disfigured White man who loved nothing more than causing chaos and sleeping with women. On the other hand, there was a horde of ninjas, headed by a supporting Asian actor, chasing after our hero for his disobedience, killing everything in sight.
So what did these actors say with their respective races? When Kate Bosworth was in the sinister clutches of the Caucasian villains, about to be raped, Jang Dong Gun, with agility and ease, flew in and swiftly killed her captors. In sum, an alpha Asian saved a woman from an evil White man. It showed that Asian men are powerful and capable, just like White men. But, to show that not all White men are evil and against Asian men, Geoffrey Rush stood in the background, the unsung hero that denied recognition, and helped save the town from certain destruction. It showed that the White man doesn’t always need to be the hero; he has many faces and is capable of sharing the limelight. Finally, Jang Dong Gun faced
his former mentor, head of the ninjas, in a samurai showdown-like standoff, reminding the audience that, just as Asian men need to be shown in a positive light, realistically, they are human, and can be good as well as evil.
The movie truly resonated with me, appealing to my inner nerd in so many different ways. It made me giddy to see some of the coolest fight scenes set to epic, Asian-influenced music, and, of course, that AM/WF kiss. This movie is odd and stylized, but I urge everyone to support it so we see more alpha Asians in cinema in the future.