The Warriors Way, “The Western” Movie Tropes, and the American Dream

 

In The Warriors Way, Asian warrior meets The Old West. This genre hybrid movie, while quite stylized and perhaps conceptual, pays homage to the American Western movie genre and blends it in a flavorful mix with the Korean concept of Han. The settings are reminiscent of low budget movies of decades past, filmed on a sound stage with quirky obviously fake sets. There is heavy CGI, and cinematographer Kim Woo-Hyung perhaps channeled his inner Salvador Dali with surreal visual stunning backdrops. Lee Seung-moo wrote and directed the movie, and seemed to have a quite a bit of fun delving into stock western movie tropes.  The movie features Jang Dong-gun, Kate Bosworth, and Geoffery Rush in leading roles.

Jang Dong-gun steps into the role of the mysterious stranger trope.  Yang, the greatest swordsman in the world, turns his back on his clan’s blood feud, refusing to murder the last remaining member of the rival clan, an infant girl. This is an act of treason, warranting a death sentence. Yang flees with the child to the American West, to join a friend in the fictional desert border town of Lode.

Desolate and remote, Lode could fit easily into an Eastwood movie. The majority of townspeople are carnival folk. The people of Lode are involved in their community, are inclusive, and work together. Unlike the common old western plot, where only a few brave souls band together to save the town, the whole town participates in the defense of the town. The carnival folk represent the frontier character, the misfits, individualists, which might end up in such a remote site in the American West, but also represents the diversity of the American people. Almost everyone in the town has a nickname, perhaps symbolizing the idealism of opportunity in America, the opportunity to change one’s life, or start a new life in a new place, which is an aspect of the American Dream. Yang’s flower garden is a nice touch of symbolism of rebirth and ”blooming where one is planted.” The carnival folk set down roots in Lode, and the garden along with the baby, dubbed April, brought renewed spirit and vitality to the town.

The taciturn Yang is expected take over the laundry business of his deceased friend (stereotyping Asians in the Old West). He is bemused by the motley crew of loud and nosy townies (East meets West culture shock cliché). Yang embodies the mysterious stranger/man with a past of formula westerns. We get a double dose of the man with a past character. Geoffrey Rush does a turn as the town drunk that eventually sobers up to help the town, and reveals a past as a marksman and retired bandito, (reformed outlaw trope).

A “cowboy” gang has terrorized the town for years. This cowboy gang is easily recognizable as Quadrille’s Raiders-esque. The gang’s leader is “The Colonel.” The Colonel is the generic movie bad guy; his main occupation seems to be killing people and raping young girls.

Kate Bosworth as Lynne lays down an exaggerated accent, paying homage to the local yokel character found in many westerns. Bosworth has many trope shoes to fill in this film in the (seemingly) cute girl throwaway role. Lynne is an amalgamation of western stock characters; the “Annie Oakley” type tomboy, the sidekick, the young gun (and possibly dangerous ally trying to prove herself and seek vengeance), and the damsel in distress/love interest. When Lynne was a young girl, The Colonel killed her parents. The Colonel attempted rape and Lynne fought back. The Colonel shot Lynne, leaving her for dead, but she survived. Lynne desperately tries to fit in with the carnival folk and contribute to the community. Here, Lynne also represents the indomitable American frontier spirit.

Movie genres have stock formulas. When one views a Western movie there are few plot surprises, and this movie is no different, maybe just a little twisty, incorporating the kimchi western with a touch of wuxia (Lee had a lot to say in this movie, much more than will be touched on in this essay). But, carnies as townies pitted against evil cowboy outlaws and evil flying assassins, how much fun is that? Lode refers to a “mother lode,” the main core vein of a mine, as in gold mine. The “good guys,” Yang, Lynne, the townspeople, all pursue their dream in the town of Lode; a sense of family and community, a safe place to call home. In the end, not everyone gets the dream. Yang asked Lynne to take April, and Lynne accepts the responsibility. The viewer knows Lynne must leave to keep April safe, because other members of the assassin clan will never stop looking for April. Yang must leave town, the only place that he found any measure of a peaceful life, as the assassin clan would never stop trying to execute him. With appropriate homage to the Western movie genre, the mysterious stranger leaves town and walks away, into the sunset. However, Lee cannot leave it at that, and perhaps leaves us with a last taste of the Korean concept of Han, and gives both hope and despair in the closing scene.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Disclaimer:

I do not own the images used in this blog unless specified. They belong to the originating photographer or source.

%d bloggers like this: