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Featured DVD Review: The Storm Warriors

February 13th, 2011

The Storm Warriors - Buy from Amazon

Directed by The Pang Brothers, The Storm Warriors is a sequel to the 1998 film, The Storm Riders, which is a film I haven't seen. I hope that won't be an issue.

The Movie

The film starts with an intertitle, giving us the background information. A Japanese warlord and his son, Lord Godless and Heart, have invaded China and managed to poison and capture most of China's top martial arts experts, including Storm, Wind, and Nameless the three main protagonists from the first film. Heart offers them a deal, join Lord Godless or be killed. When they refuse, they are to be executed, but Nameless's assistant had previously snuck into the prison and given them the antidote. However, while they are able to fight back, they are still greatly weakened by the poison and are unable to overcome Lord Godless's invulnerability. Many of the masters are killed, but at least Storm, Wind, Nameless, and Chu Chu escape.

Master Nameless decides that Cloud and Wind must train harder to build up their power so that they may defeat Lord Godless. Nameless entrusts King Piggy to lead Cloud and Wind to Lord Wicked, the only one who can train them, while Nameless tries to prevent Heart from finding them. Lord Godless had sent Heart to find Cloud and Wind, knowing that if they were to fight as one, they would be a real threat to him. He will also destroy all the Kung Fu temples if they do not pledge loyalty to him. When Cloud and Wind get to Lord Wicked, he won't even see them. That is not till Second Dream, the only daughter of the Knife King shows up and asks them. When he does finally reveal himself, he has no arms. He had succumbed to his training in Evil Kung Fu and started killing innocents, so this was the only way to prevent further bloodshed. But now he has to train one of them in the ways of Evil Kung Fu, because there is no time to increase their power any other way. He chooses Wind, because Wind has better control over his agression and is less likely to fall to madness like Lord Wicked did. Meanwhile, Nameless summons Cloud to continue his training in swords.

Will they be able to complete their training in time to stop Lord Godless and save their emperor?

The term "over-stylized" barely begins to describe this movie. The Pang Brothers certainly did bring a strong visual flair to the movie and there are a number of fight scenes where their use of CG effects, slow motion, etc. adds to the movie. The film is based on a manga series and the film borrows from the aesthetic heavily, but for the most part effectively. (Heart's march to subdue the Kung Fu Temples is definitely a plus.) On the other hand, there are times when it is little more than a distraction. (Slow motion blood sprays or slow motion fighting in water is overused to the point that calling it cliched is not adequate.) That said, even when it's being overused, the CG effects are always top-notch. Granted, it was a high budget movie for Hong Kong (100 million in local currency), but that's still less than $13 million American. Most dialogue driven dramas made by Hollywood cost three times that, or more.

As for the non-fighting scenes, they are superfluous. You could literally watch the rest of the movie in fast-forward and it wouldn't really negatively impact your enjoyment of the film. Some of the particular powers used might be a little confusing, but that's kind of true no matter what. There are a few side characters that are underutilized (including the only two female characters worth noting) and for the most part the characters take a back seat to the fights.

One last word of warning. I mentioned this was a sequel, but it is not just a sequel, it's the second part of a planned trilogy. So the ending is less than satisfying.

The Extras

The only extras are a 5-minute interview / behind-the-scenes featurette and a 4-minute featurette on the special effects. That's pretty weak, but sadly on par with a lot of foreign language imports.

The Verdict

The Storm Warriors is a style over substance Wuxia / Martial Art movie that is filled with special effects, but light on characters. The DVD isn't devoid of extras, but there's not enough there to lift if past a rental for most people. If you are a big fan of the Manga it is based on, or of The Pang Brothers, then the movie itself might have the replay value needed to warrant a purchase over just a rental, but I'm not willing to go that far.

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