Director Luc Besson’s Warrior’s Gate isn’t going to win any Oscars, or even win at the box office. The comedy bromance has taken its time getting to Hong Kong, too, despite featuring one of our own.
Critics are divided, most finding it a bit lame. But this critic found that, really, it’s a whole lot of fun. Sure there are some unPC moments, the boy still rescues the girl, there’re those nasty barbarians out there, but it still all works.
The main character is Jack Bronson, played by a dreamy Uriah Shelton. He’s not having a great life: his single mom is struggling to pay the mortgage and they’re likely to lose their home, he gets bullied a lot, and apparently has motivational issues, especially when it comes to homework. He has a job at a Chinese antique shop that allows him to earn a bit of money. His one bit of escape is a video game in which he plays The Black Knight, and fights off enemies along the way to rescue the princess.
The old man who runs the shop sees Jack is intrigued by a large, ancient basket with a lid that is engraved with a temple dancer, so gives it to Jack, who takes it home.
That night, Jack is woken with a steel sword at his throat. Behind the sword is Zhoo – professionally played by Taiwanese actor Mark Chao of Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon fame. With him is Su Lin, the soon-to-be empress of China. Zhoo is desperately looking for The Black Knight to protect Su Lin from some terrible bandits that are rampaging through his land. He’s not happy when he finally understands that The Black Knight is not a real person. Still, he leaves Su Lin with Jack, warning him never to touch her, and disappears down into the basket.
Characters out of their own time are always good for a laugh, and Su Lin is no exception. In a short space of time she’s introduced to peanut butter, The Shopping Mall, ice cream and hip hop, and loves them all. Jack is finding it very hard to keep her hidden from his mother, but manages to pass her off as an exchange student. Perhaps this won’t be such a bad time in his life after all.
Things change rapidly when a whole crash of fierce barbarian warriors storm his bedroom from the basket. They carry off Su Lin, and Jack does what any scrawny gamer would do: he goes right after them. Cue a time slip, monsters, a wisecracking baddy, and tasty sets, a load of kung fu and some boss fights, and you’re set for a good laugh and a lot of entertainment.
Hong Kong veteran Francis Ng plays the wily wizard, but the acting applause must go to Guardian of the Galaxy’s Dave “Drax” Bautista for his absolutely great portrayal of Arun, the barbarian warlord.
Let’s not give you any spoilers for the rest of the story but you’ll recognise a lot of what goes on in this movie from others that have come before, including The Karate Kid. It’s worth the price of a ticket and it’s on circuit now so get it while the popcorn’s hot.