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  Warriors Gate, The You Don't Need Mario To Save The Princess
Year: 2016
Director: Matthias Hoene
Stars: Mark Chao, Ni Ni, Dave Bautista, Sienna Guillory, Uriah Shelton, Frances Ng, Kara Hui, Ka Zha, Dakota Dalby, Luke Mac Davis, Xi Ming, You Tianyi, Liu Lijie, Ron Smoorenburg, Chen Tao, David Liu, Guan Yilin, Li Xiaochuan, Joel Adrian, Byron Gibson
Genre: Action, Fantasy, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Jack Bronson (Uriah Shelton) is a high school student who has a chance to go to college if he applies himself sufficiently, but his mother Annie (Sienna Guillory) fears he will be distracted by computer games or bullies which will scupper his potential. Those bullies have chased him on their bikes this afternoon, and he narrowly escaped them to seek refuge in the Chinese antiques shop where he has a part-time job. His boss is unpacking his latest delivery, a large jar which Jack takes home with him for safekeeping, but what he does not expect is for someone to emerge from it and confront him in his bedroom, demanding to know where the Black Knight is. That's the name of his gaming avatar...

The Warriors Gate (no apostrophe for some reason) was yet another production from Luc Besson, also on scripting duties with Karate Kid screenwriter Robert Mark Kamen - and there were similarities, it had to be said. Indeed, the whole affair seemed to be harking back to that particularly American fantasy most identified with the nineteen-eighties, a touch of The Last Starfighter here, a dash of Rad there, maybe even a dose of Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure for good measure, nothing wholly specific, but employing the style and parameters of those movies where an American teen was the centre of an absurd but, with any luck, perfectly diverting plot that plunged him into adventure.

Jack was that teen here, oddly named after Charles Bronson presumably because the now-deceased action star's name still had a lot of cachet in the Far East. That was significant because Besson had made inroads into the Chinese market, co-producing with partners in that nation along with his native France (and Cambodia too) for an international project that had its protagonist assuredly from The United States, even though there was no American money in this. Presumably that was down to that culture having a lot of importance in the world's idea of a significant movie, just as Bollywood movies were by then including American scenes to increase their global appeal and enjoy some added glitz and glamour.

All that said, a large part of the storyline presented China as the place to be, as Jack is transported through that sizeable jar to a portal in time that has him in that particular land of hundreds of years before, though not before he has been acclimatising a Princess (Ni Ni) who is turning Empress since her father has been murdered. She doesn't appear too upset about this, countering her regal air for a taste for ice cream and twenty-tens fashion opportunities, leading to amusing enough comedy bits as Jack attempts to explain to his pal and his mother why this young lady has moved into his house (the old exchange student gambit works a treat, it would seem). Sporting a distinctively American twang to her dialogue, it had to be said Ni did not come across as authentically of her supposed lineage in years.

Then again, what did you want, a history lesson? Nope, you were here for a bit of fun, and that is what Besson and Kamen served up under the direction of commercials creator Matthias Hoene, who kept the pace up and sustained a goofy atmosphere that proved fairly entertaining in its breezy, silly manner. The man seeking the Black Knight was Zhoo (Mark Chao), and when the Princess is kidnapped (since it was an action flick, the female lead had to be kidnapped at some stage) he agrees to train Jack in the ways of martial arts, though to be honest it's more of a crash course than an intensive tutorial. The kidnapper? Just like in a Mario computer game, it was a villain who wanted to marry the Princess, played by the very busy Dave Bautista who was given a few funny bits himself as if recognising his humorous moments in his Guardians of the Galaxy role. There was little too weighty here aside from the encouraging "beat the bullies" subplot which translated into besting Bautista's warlord, but it was engaging in a paradoxically modest way for a film that had this ambitious narrative. Music by Klaus Badelt.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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