The duo of Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen have been turning out movies for a while now in their Europa Corp guise usually. Though they don’t always write together (Kamen isn’t involved in the upcoming Valerian), when they do, what you get is fun and action.
Enter The Warriors Gate tells the story of a teenage boy, Jack, played by Uriah Shelton (The Glades (TV), Girl Meets World (TV)), who works for a Chinese man, Francis Ng (Exiled, Gen-X Cops), in his shop. One day, after Jack is running from bullies, Francis gifts him a strange looking pot that happens to have magical powers.
This pot ends up transporting Jack into ancient China where he teams up with Zhoo, played by Mark Chao (Monga, Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon), to rescue princes Su Lin, played by Ni Ni (The Flowers of War, Suddenly Seventeen), from the evil Arun, played by Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy, Spectre). Jack is a wizard at fighting computer games so this will help him, right?
The duo of Kamen and Besson are on form with Enter The Warriors Gate. It’s a very simple setup and it borrows heavily from the likes of The Karate Kid, Gremlins, Bill & Ted’s and many others. Sure, it’s not without its issues: The direction, from Matthias Hoene (Cockneys vs Zombies, Trigger Point (TV)) is wonderful if a tad slow at times, the dialogue can be a little clunky and Shelton is just plain annoying throughout.
However, the movie is fun. It’s the sort of thing you can watch and imagine being part of, it’s escapism and it works as such very well. It’s not trying to be anything other than entertainment and, on that level, it works.
Chao is good as the warrior who Shelton tries to teach to relax and have fun – though these scenes felt a bit disjointed and where never really followed up on or put to much use. Bautista is great as Arun, he has quite a few ‘Arnie-style’ one-liners and quips which don’t always work but are still fun.
It’s Ni Ni who stands out the most though. Her performance takes us through her as a spoilt princess, a warrior fighting alongside Chao and Shelton and a woman who experiences a shopping-mall for the first time. The time travelling side of things and ‘fish out of water’ is what reminded me of Bill & Ted’s.
Enter The Warriors Gate could have done with some finessing. Shelton is 20-years old playing a high-school student, whilst Ni Ni is 29 and, whilst her age is never mentioned, it looks like they want us to believe they’re of a similar age. But Shelton just looks young and acts young because he is young. So, when the two of them are supposed to be ‘falling’ for each other, well, it’s just a bit cringeworthy.
Shelton isn’t believable as a teenager and even less so as a teenager who’s discovering this new world that contains warriors and magic. He plods through it like he’s studied at the Joey from Friends school of acting. He isn’t helped by the dialogue which Kamen and Besson, for some unknown reason, decided should be 90’s-esq your-mother-trying-to-speak-ghetto.
I can only assume this is done so that you understand the differences in culture and time between the white kids in America vs the Chinese warriors, in warrior outfits, carrying swords and wearing armour. You know, ‘case you get mixed up (I don’t know then. Why on earth would anyone write dialogue like that unless it’s ironic?).
Enter The Warriors Gate. Flawed? Certainly. Funny? At times. Fun? Definitely and well directed. Catch it on TV or Netflix or wherever.