08:00 - 5th September 2013, by Calum Waddell

The Warrior and the Wolf

Beautiful scenery, a beautiful girl and beautiful sequences of heart-rending inner strife - yes The Warrior and the Wolf is nothing if not picturesque, every moment played against sumptuous visuals and highlighting the shapely physique of leading lady Maggie Q and her bicep-ridden co-star Tou Chung-Hau. All of this would be fine, of course, were it not for the fact that - lost somewhere in amongst the sumptuous onscreen spectacle - is anything approaching a good and involving story. Indeed, this is more or less the same old, same old that we've seen in Hong Kong period epics for the past two decades: man falls in love with the wrong woman in a time of peril and has to find his way back to "normality"... This love against the odds takes place despite the warning that a liaison with a lady of an opposing tribe will, eventually, turn him into a wolf... (okay, so that bit is fairly unusual!).

That said - The Warrior and the Wolf at least kicks off with some semblance of intrigue. Rather disappointingly, however, it's only the film's first half hour that really shines. Here, star Chung-Hau - portraying an ancient warrior - bonds with a wolf cub and, through doing so, begins to discover his own humanity (something that reaches its climax, pardon the pun, in his eventual coupling with Transporter star Maggie Q). Sadly, writer / director Tian Zhuangzhuang (who also helmed 1993's acclaimed art-drama The Blue Kite) opts to slaughter the loveable four legged fur ball early on, effectively nixing the entire man and beast subplot that The Warrior and the Wolf spends so much time focusing on initially.

Now, call us odd, but as mega-lovely as Maggie Q is, she just doesn't quite hold the same "aaaaw" factor as a baby pup - and, as such, listening to her and Chung-Hau discuss post-coitus, age-old tribal partitions and so forth is nothing if not tiresome. Much more fun is watching the adorable, titular critter run around in the snow. It is also worth noting that the film's two stars, despite existing in ancient China, are - respectively - Japanese and Vietnamese; adding a little bit of confusion to the proceedings.

Of course, this is not to say that The Warrior and the Wolf could not have salvaged a bit more from its clearly impressive budget. A little action, and even a touch of chemistry between the two central characters, is not a lot to ask for... but even this is in short display. As mentioned at the start of this review, the real saving grace of this outing is in its technical trickery and location shooting. In this sense, and only in this sense, does The Warrior and the Wolf match up well against such previous lovelorn genre releases as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and The House of Flying Daggers.

Yet, take away the stunning sights and sounds, and that short-lived wolf pup that the title erroneously allows to take centre stage, and you have a feature that really needs a bit more pace and precision to recommend it. As it stands, this is one wolf that has a distinctive lack of animal magic.

Sumptuous but slow-paced, The Warrior and the Wolf starts off well but fumbles the plot the minute Maggie Q arrives and romance takes centre stage. A howling good time is not promised...
SCORE: 2/5
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