Enter the Warriors Gate Review: Matthias Hoene’s film emerges as a decent enough fantasy and action epic
With numerous adaptations and plotlines over the years. The modern usage of video games on film has had some great life that sees another new entry come together in this new installment. A true multinational co-production between France, China and Cambodia. Director Matthias Hoene’s ‘Enter the Warriors Gate’ emerges as a decent enough fantasy/action epic from the writing/producing duo of Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen.
Living in modern American, teenager Jack (Uriah Shelton, from TV’s ‘Girl Meets World’) loves video games and spends the majority of his time playing games or working for his boss Chang (Francis Ng, ‘Gen-X Cops’) when not running from bullies. Suddenly, he finds himself entrusted with guarding Su Lin (Ni Ni, from ‘The Flowers of War’) a princess from ancient China by Zhao (Mark Chao, from ‘Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon’), her companion. When she becomes captured by the barbarian Arun (Dave Bautista, from ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’). And whisked back to her time-period. He goes back to help save her. And learns that his skills with video games enable him to help himself as well as save the day.
Despite the intriguing storyline here, this one does have its faults. The main issue is the film’s wildly uneven tone, which really throws way too many elements into the mix. The inclusion of the video-game persona and an influx of modern slang included amongst old-school wire-works, witchcraft and epic fantasy create several problems. The modern-day teachings and customs should’ve brought more comedic flair, but instead serve only to grow irritation in the viewer. Most of them are completely anachronistic and seem included only to serve the commercialized aspect of Warriors Gate. With Besson and Kamen’s script keeping things moving along at a fine clip. It’s sometimes hard to overlook these issues as the film is quite rapid-fire in it’s pacing. Yet these flaws are still present. Overall, the movie just feels aimed at too many different groups that it never seeks to develop it’s own sensibility.
Although merely decent, one of its few strengths is the martial arts action (phim hanh dong xuyen khong). With Steven McMichael’s fluid choreography, these battle scenes are incredibly fun. Granted a cast of capable performers on the Chinese side. The epic battles that take place in the film are fun and enjoyable. From the battle with the thugs in his house to the numerous charges across the battlefield, to the fantastic escape from the compound which utilizes plenty of wire-works, multiple performer brawls and some stellar stunt-work from action director Chi Wah Ling really sell the scene.
The final battle between Jack and Arun is clumsy in that we expect this scrawny, scrappy kid with minimal training to stand a chance against this hulking, imposing warrior but it’s to be expected and doesn’t detract from this one too much. The mix of fantasy into the proceedings doesn’t distract either as the inclusions of wizardry and giantism in some of the vengeful hordes coming after him, yet on the whole it just continues to showcase the rather chaotic nature more than anything.
Frankly, the cast is hit-or-miss but still come off wholly competent. Lead Uriah Shelton as Jack is one of the misses as he’s completely inappropriate for this action film. He hits the self-centered teenager role well, which means he spouts off catchphrases from the late 1990s. And generally doesn’t do much until the finale when he fumbles into his destiny. Because the story says he has to. Mark Chao plays the friendly warrior Zhao with a much better air. His stoic intensity and formidable martial arts skills are quite appealing. Yet his attempts at comedy at the behest of Jack are cringeworthy more than anything. Despite the effort to perform them on camera. Ni Ni as princess Su Lin, though, steals the whole film.
Her comedic turns at the beginning are actually funny as she has a natural air to her that makes her classy upbringing into question during these scenes. As such, she’s a worthwhile participant of the battle scenes which helps them out immensely. Finally, Dave Bautista as the barbarian Arun is somewhat troublesome. Physically, he’s perfectly suited for the role with an imposing presence. But his comedic quips with an overly-eager henchmen are woefully out-of-place in the film. And speak to a more commercialized feel.
While the film is not dull in the slightest. Enter the Warriors Gate (Ve Binh Thoi Gian) is plagued by a series of smaller issues that do serve to knock it down more than anything although it still emerges wholly watchable in the end. Give this a shot if you find yourself completely willing to overlook these issues and go with the flow, while those looking for more traditionalism in their kung-fu films should exercise caution with this one.