I have a new least-favorite movie of the year.
Martial arts movies, even the especially violent ones, can be beautiful. There is grace and elegance to be found in movement, and many martial arts films never settle for merely finding it -- they capture it, showcase it, and wrap it in emotion.
This was not one of those movies. Fast cuts and shaky cameras undermined most of what the fight choreographers and performers were doing. The trailers made it look like this was going to be a film full of absolutely awesome fights, but they kept disappointing me.
Plot? Let us not speak of it. I'm pretty sure that was the rule on set, too.
Acting? Well, I think everybody did pretty well with the dialog and motivation they were given. Russell Crowe spent the whole movie looking like he wanted some lines that would let him chew the scenery. He took a bite out of some of it, but nothing he could make a proper meal out of. My least favorite of the actors was The Rza, who also has screenwriting and directing credit. I guess that means I can just blame him for everything I didn't like.
Casting? You know what? AWESOME. No whitewashing. Sure, it's a little weird for a small-town Chinese blacksmith to be an American of African descent, but they worked that into the story and presented a completely unnecessary flashback for it. But hey, if The Rza wants to star in the movie he wrote and directed, it's on him to figure out how to solve the casting issue. (Okay, one of our villains was the massively muscular Dave Bautista, who is very white, and whose whiteness was not justified in the way Crowe's was, but that's the only example I can think of.)
Ultimately, I wanted to have fun but the fight scenes kept letting me down. The plot had me groaning. The dialog was campy and clichéd without being effective as satire. And at the end of the movie I wished I gone to see Wreck-It Ralph a second time.