The Beast Within? The Warrior And The Wolf

The Beast Within? The Warrior And The Wolf

Static Mass Rating: 1/5
Universal Pictures 

Release date: May 30th, 2011
Certificate (UK): 18
Running time: 97 minutes

Director: Tian Zhuangzhuang

Cast: Chung Hua Tou, Jo Adagiri, Maggie Q

All too often I hear the saying “people are like animals” and every time I feel a pinch of sadness for the poor creatures likened to humans.

We never attribute qualities like instinct or protectiveness to being animalistic. Instead, when men are at their most barbaric we will most often hear the phrase, like in Tian Zhuangzhuang’s  The Warrior And The Wolf (aka Lang Zai Ji), based on the novella by Inoue Yasushi.

The Warrior And The Wolf

Set 2000 years go during the time of the Han Dynasty; we follow the story of a cowardly shepherd Lu Chenkang (Joe Odagiri), who is recruited by General Zhang Anliang (Chung Hua Tou). Although he tries to run away, Lu goes on to become one of Zhang’s best fighters.

When the general is taken hostage during an enemy attack, Lu is the one who secures his safe return, but as they try to make their way home, the harsh winter  forces them to stay in a mountain village.

The Warrior And The Wolf

It’s here that Lu encounters a local woman (Maggie Q) whom he repeatedly rapes. He keeps her captive and threatens her life if she goes outside or tries to leave him.

As time passes, her dislike for her captor lessens and she eventually shares a secret with him about a power that will allow him to transform into a wolf to defeat his enemies.

The Warrior And The Wolf is sparse when it comes to dialogue and withholding when it comes to letting us in on the motivations of its characters. Although the scenery is breathtaking and the fight sequences are choreographed well, it doesn’t come anywhere near to the impressive qualities of Hero (2002) or Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) which William Kong also produced. The main problem lies in the screenplay; there’s just not much to work with.

The Warrior And The Wolf

The sudden change in Lu’s character from cowardly to fearless is too much of a jump without first having established something in his nature that would allow for such a trait to shine through. Second of all is Maggie Q’s character. The rape scenes are long and we only need to see it once, the rest can surely be implied because after a while these scenes aren’t telling us anything new. What I also couldn’t understand was her change of heart, especially when we learn what she really is and that she shares this secret with a man like Lu.

Overall I was left bitterly disappointed with this film. While it started off beautifully with a lot of promise, it soon became apparent that it was flawed beyond hope or repair. It only heightens my own belief that when men are barbaric they are just men and nothing like animals or the majestic wolves this film tries to liken them to…

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