“Warrior” (NBC) pilot preview: Kung-Fu “Revenge”, a dish best NOT served

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Original Title: American Ronin. Pilot “Humility” Written & produced by David DiGilio (Traveler, Crossbones). Executive produced by husband & wife Walter F. Parkes (The Slap US) & Laurie MacDonald (Crossbones). Directed by Phillip Noyce (Revenge, Salt, Bone Collector, The Giver). For NBC & Universal Television. 60 pages.

Description: Kai Forrester, a damaged young woman is given a chance to go out of jail in exchange for working undercover for a mysterious martial arts master who trains her to bring down an international crime lord who’s responsible for the death of her twin brother…

With Natalie Martinez (Under The Dome, Secrets & Lies US), Holt McCallany (Lights Out), Lance Gross (Crisis, House Of Payne), Will Yun Lee (True Blood, Strike Back, Hawaii 5-0), Rila Fukushima (Arrow), Andy Allo

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Two pilot seasons ago, NBC developed a drama project entitled Bloodlines, about an 18-year old girl discovering she’s coming from a powerful family of mercenaries with skills in martial-arts and some kind of magical power. I think I never read something more dated than that (for example, the writer I won’t name wanted I saw a sign from Ace Of Base, some AC/DC and Stuck On You from Lionel Richie for the soundtrack…). It was dumb and thank God, NBC didn’t go further with it. Sadly, they’re trying something not that different this year with Warrior. It’s not as bad. But it’s not good either. Just think about those boooring scenes in this booooring show that is Revenge, where Emily Thorne learns martial arts. Well, now you have an idea of what Warrior looks like.

I’ll be honest: the opening scene is visually ambitious on paper and if they get the right budget for it, it could look gorgeous and be impressive. David DiGilio doesn’t hesitate to refer to Inception & Matrix, with important choreographic fighting scenes defying gravity. And it takes place in Dubaï, in a luxurious building between the desert and the sea, Mission: Impossible-style. But then… then you have other kung-fu fighting scenes, more traditional and grounded, but way too many. If I remember correctly, there are six in the pilot. You can’t deepen the characters while doing all this stuff. And because the writer wants his show to be taken seriously -I can’t blame him for that- he can’t crack too many jokes either. Bloodlines had many many flaws but at least, dialogues were amusing.

So it’s not fun, most of the time. It’s not emotional, except towards the end because we finally get some rest with the fighting for more character and relationship stuff. We learn some secret, but they are way too easy and obvious to make us care a little bit more about Kai. She’s a bad ass and that’s cool. Life hasn’t been easy for her and that’s sad. But it’s not enough to make a show out of it. It’s already hard to go through one episode, I can’t imagine what it would be like to watch a full season. The mythology doesn’t look solid enough at this point and it’s already hard to follow. Who are the enemies? What do they want? We need some sort of answers from the get go, just to be sure we’re not completely wasting our time here. The only thing I quite liked is the use of magic. There’s a hint of supernatural occurences and we pay a visit to the afterlife world called here “Shadowland” where our heroine is experiencing a near-death moment. The rest is so cliché about Chinese people doing their rites and being wicked and bloodthirsty and… well, it’s depressing.

In my opinion, Warrior is the perfect example of those projects not worth a pilot order that get it anyway for whatever mysterious reasons, and there are a few of them every year. It has no potential to become a hit, even a modest one. The cast is not even attracting, even if I’m pretty sure Natalie Martinez is capable of doing the job nicely. I hope NBC will come its senses and won’t order it to series. If they do, it can only be a mid-season entry cancelled after a few airings. And it’s not me being pessimistic. It’s me being realistic. 

One comment

  1. Tonya says:

    From you describe the writer on this script has a lack of understand of the difference between different Asian cultures. Why would the show have even been titled American Ronin, when people are using kung fu aka Chinese martial arts. Ronin is a Japanese term for a rogue samurai. From what you describe there are no samurai swords or Japanese martial arts in the script.

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