Long, long ago in a land far, far away, Yang (Jang Dong-gun), greatest swordsman in the history of mankind. Ever. saves the life of a baby girl from a rival clan. Heading to America with the baby, he lands at the edge of the desert in a busted town full of broken people. The town of Lode, Paris of the West. Population 500, mostly circus folk. Here he encounters Lynne (Kate Bosworth), a knife thrower who simmers for revenge after evil cowboys led by The Colonel (Danny Huston) murder her family. Yang teams up with the inhabitants to defend the town from the cowboys whilst falling for Lynne but soon his clan catches up with him.
I was surprised to find that this film directed by Sngmoo Lee, was not based on a one-shot comic-book because it has the feel of one what with the artfully clashing gorgeous CGI landscapes – deserts, coastlines, bamboo forests, the composition of shots and the use of intertitles. And the clichéd plot and characters.
The dialogue is hokey Wild West writing mixed with stereotypical eastern combat philosophy like: “It is not your arm but your heart that shakes.”
The actors battle heroically to give their character’s life. Jang Dong-gun is in the thankless role of taciturn warrior fleeing a past. Kate Bosworth, whilst stunning to look at kicking up a dust storm with knives, dangs and darns is ultimately playing a stereotype.
As for Geoffrey Rush his is a throw-away role as town drunk. Their enemies?
The ninjas are 2D cut-outs transplanted from a dull entry in the Lone Wolf and Cub series. As for the cowboys, Huston is simply the most interesting thing on the screen as The Colonel. Urbane and truly evil with his gorgeous voice, he simmers with perversion throughout the movie and makes a compelling bad guy.
I’m tempted to crack jokes about actors collecting pay-cheques but I got the sense that they were having fun in a genre movie.
What we are really here for are the CGI and fights. Specifically: cowboys vs. ninjas. The whole thing is sharply done and everything is shot in deep focus so the audience can view the gorgeous surroundings and carnage… I say carnage, it’s not that gory.
The final battle tests out every theory as to who would win and with what weapons. It is a mildly entertaining clash with surprisingly little blood on offer, more sand and decapitated limbs. The highlights are anything with South Korean actor Jang Dong-gun and the fights between Danny Huston and Kate Bosworth.
A fun film that won’t trouble anybody not intrigued by Cowboys vs. Ninja, it probably reflects the reason why it has only lasted a week in exhibition in the UK.