DVD Review HTF REVIEW: The Warrior (AKA Musa)

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Aaron Silverman, Mar 9, 2006.

  1. Aaron Silverman

    Aaron Silverman Executive Producer

    Jan 22, 1999
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    Real Name:
    Aaron Silverman
    The Warrior (AKA Musa)

    US Theatrical Release: July 20, 2002 (NY Asian-American International Film Festival) (Sony Pictures)
    US DVD Release: March 7, 2006
    Running Time: 2:13:10 (16 chapter stops)
    Rating: R (For Strong Bloody Battle Sequences)
    Video: 2.35:1 anamorphic (Extra Features: N/ A)
    Audio: Korean/ Mandarin DD2.0, English DD5.1 (Extra Features: N/ A)
    Subtitles: English (Extra Features: N/ A)
    TV-Generated Closed Captions: English (Extra Features: None)
    Menus: Not animated.
    Packaging: Standard keepcase; insert has cover images for other Asian Sony Pictures titles on both sides.
    MSRP: $24.96


    The time is the dawn of the Ming, the last ethnically Chinese imperial dynasty. The Mongols have been driven north of the Great Wall, and the Ming are in control of most of the country. However, warfare still rages along the frontiers. Although much of the interior is at peace, any adventure set near the borderlands is sure to feature plenty of sword-clashin’ action.

    The Koryo dynasty in Korea has sent a diplomatic mission to China's new rulers, but they have been intercepted and exiled by local officials. For some reason, the Ming are mildly perturbed at the fact that the Koryo murdered their own delegation. Go figure! The Warrior tells the tale of the Korean mission's desperate journey to return home through harsh terrain while facing attacks from both Ming and Mongol forces. Well, the journey of the soldiers in the mission, anyway –- the elderly diplomats they’re protecting don’t last long, what with all them arrows flying about.

    Most of the Koreans manage to escape their captors when a Mongol warband arrives and slaughters all the Chinese. As they make their way towards Korea, they encounter a much friskier group of Mongols, who are holding a Ming princess (Zhang Ziyi) hostage. General Choi (Jin-Mo Ju), the highest-ranking survivor in the group, decides that rescuing the Princess and returning her home would create the goodwill with the Ming that could turn their miserable failure into a diplomatic success.

    A cat-and-mouse chase ensues, with the Mongols hunting the Koreans as they make their way across desert and wooded terrain, occasionally pausing to bust some skulls. Along the way, we get to know a few of the heroes, like the bow-wielding Sergeant Jin-Lib (Sung-Kee Ahn), beloved by his loyal troops, and the quiet-but-deadly Yeo-Sol (Woo-Sung Jung), a slave-turned-invincible-Kung-Fu-master. At one point, a group of local refugees join the crew, providing extra women and children for the soldiers (and the viewers!) to worry about. Although some of the main characters are fairly clichéd, most of them are fleshed out enough to make the film more than just a hack-'n'-slash-fest. We even get to know Rambulhua (Rongguang Yu), the leader of the local Mongol forces.

    A brief scene (blink and you might miss it) implies that the Mongols took the Princess hostage because the Ming are holding the daughter of a Mongol, um, -- well, it’s not clear what he his, but Rambulhua calls him "Your Highness." This is one of a few plot elements that are basically glossed over -- perhaps they are better explained in the original cut of the film, which is about 20 minutes longer.

    Unclear plot developments aside, The Warrior is all about the violence, and there’s a good amount of it. The film earns its 'R' rating with more than its share of "that's gotta hurt" moments, although some of them border on the cartoonish. Unfortunately for Zhang Ziyi fans, she doesn’t have much to do during the action sequences beyond her trademark Intense Nostril-Flarin' Glare. As for the martial arts, only Yeo-Sol really shows something beyond the basic sword-swinging and arrow-slinging of the other characters. Still, the essentially straightforward combat scenes work pretty well.

    The Warrior is a nice looking film, too. The wide-open desert vistas and dense forests are beautifully photographed. It's too bad that the shortened international cut was used, as the occasional moments when it feels like a scene is missing are a bit distracting. As a basic Asian action-adventure, it works pretty well but isn't really interesting enough to appeal to anyone who isn't already a fan of the genre.

    THE WAY I SEE IT: 3.5/5

    The picture, which is almost entirely tinted in desert yellows, is basically good, but does have a few issues. It's nicely detailed, and reflects the film grain well. Edge enhancement is visible throughout, and there is an occasional flicker in the image. Blacks are decent, but have a slight brownness to them due to the general yellow hue. Also, the source print is not without its share of scratches and flecks.

    THE WAY I HEAR IT: 2.5/5 (Korean/ Mandarin) & 4/5 (English)

    The two audio tracks each have their pluses and minuses. On the one hand, there is the original Korean and Mandarin language track, which is DD2.0 Surround (Pro Logic). It's adequate for those who’d rather avoid the dub, working mainly in the center channel, enhanced with a decent amount of directional and surround activity for a Pro Logic track. However, the DD5.1 English soundtrack really ups the ante. The LFE channel provides a lot of oomph, directional effects are clearer, and the general dynamic range is significantly wider. If you don't mind the dub, then the English track is the way to go. (Note that the subtitles are "dubtitles" -- they match the dub script exactly, and some of the lines are translated in stiff and awkward ways. So even watching the original language track with the subtitles doesn't avoid some of the standard dub issues.) On the other hand, if you are watching at a low volume level (say, if there is a sleeping baby in the other room), then you might want to listen to the Korean/ Mandarin track. Because its dynamic range is so much narrower, ambient sounds are much more audible at low levels. When listening to the English track with the volume cranked down, much of the surround activity is so quiet as to be unnoticeable.

    THE SWAG: 0.5/5 (rating combines quality and quantity)


    When the disc is first inserted, the trailers for End Game, The Dying Gaul, and Where The Truth Lies play automatically. They may be skipped.
    • The Warrior (2:00) (DD2.0; 2.35:1 anamorphic)
    • The Warrior (Original Korean Trailer) (1:53) (DD2.0; 1.78:1 non-anamorphic)
    • The Warrior (Korean TV Spot #1) (0:22) (DD2.0; 1.78:1 non-anamorphic)
    • The Warrior (Korean TV Spot #2) (0:17) (DD2.0; 1.78:1 non-anamorphic)
    • End Game (2:23) (DD2.0; 1.78:1 anamorphic)
    • The Dying Gaul (2:19) (DD2.0; 1.78:1 anamorphic)
    • Where The Truth Lies (2:01) (DD2.0; 2.35:1 anamorphic)
    • White Dragon (1:07) (DD2.0; 1.85:1 non-anamorphic)
    • The Net 2.0 (1:21) (DD2.0; 1.78:1 non-anamorphic)
    • Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood Of War (2:03) (DD2.0; 1.78:1 anamorphic)
    • The Squid And The Whale (2:32) (DD2.0; 1.78:1 anamorphic)
    • London (2:03) (DD2.0; 1.78:1 anamorphic)
    • Memoirs Of A Geisha (2:36) (DD2.0; 1.85:1 anamorphic)


    The Way I Feel About It: 2.5/5
    The Way I See It: 3.5/5
    The Way I Hear It: 2.5/5 & 4/5
    The Swag: 0.5/5

    Although its original language track is only Pro Logic and parts of the plot may have been sliced out, The Warrior is a reasonably entertaining action-adventure. Casual fans will do fine with this disc, which looks nice and has a very well done English dub, although more hardcore aficionados may prefer to seek out an edition from another region that features the full-length cut and a better Korean/ Mandarin audio track.
  2. James D S

    James D S Screenwriter

    Nov 14, 2000
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    Thanks for the review, Aaron.

    Does anyone know of a good resource of Asian movies? I thoroughly enjoyed Hero, Iron Monkey, and of course Kung-Fu Hustle. But, I'd like to grow my collection of similar quality titles. I'm tired of picking up Asian kung-fu discs on spec only to be completely disappointed.

    Any direction would be appreciated.
  3. John Huynh

    John Huynh Auditioning

    Apr 5, 2004
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    Go check out aznfilms.com

    I havent personally bought anything from there myself but it looks like a good site. They have everything there!
  4. Aaron Silverman

    Aaron Silverman Executive Producer

    Jan 22, 1999
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    Real Name:
    Aaron Silverman
    You're welcome, James!

    There are a few large threads in this forum on the subject of Asian films worth picking up. Do a search and you should be able to dig them up. I'm not sure of a good website for this info, but Google might know of a couple. [​IMG]

    The best Sony DVD of 2005, Asian or otherwise, is probably Tae Guk Gi, a Korean epic about two brothers fighting in the Korean War. Definitely check it out! I also very much liked House Of Flying Daggers, although there may be better versions in other regions (check out my review thread on it in the Reviews Archive forum for a discussion of that).

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