A roundtable chat with Kate Bosworth and Danny Huston of “The Warrior’s Way”

The movies often make for strange companions, if not actual bedfellows. So it was that a bunch of entertainment writers at the junket for the genre-blending martial-arts western fantasy, “The Warrior’s Way,” met with a pair of actors with a definite air of  beauty-and-the-beast about them.

Kate Bosworth of Kate Bosworth is, oddly enough, the beauty of the pair. Perhaps best known as Lois Lane in the unfairly maligned “Superman Returns,” Bosworth has appeared in a number of films, including a solid appearance as Sandra Dee in Kevin Spacey‘s offbeat Bobby Darin biopic, “Beyond the Sea.” She also played porn star John Holmes’ teenage girlfriend in the fact-based “Wonderland” and was the female lead in the gambling-themed hit, “21.” Bosworth launched her career starring in the short-lived “Dawson’s Creek” spin-off, “Young Americans,” which wrapped in 2000 and followed that up with the lead role in the surfing-themed “Blue Crush” in 2002.

Danny Huston is often cast in the role of beastly types and authority figures, and usually a combination of both. He was the leader of the cold weather vampires in “30 Days of Night,” a memorably creepy power broker in “Children of Men,” and the mutant hating Col. William Stryker in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” He was also the despicably ultra-vicious desperado/gangleader brother of Guy Pearce in the 2005 mega-grime Australian western, “The Proposition.”

Danny Huston of It’s also mandatory that I mention that Huston is about as “Hollywood royalty” as people get, being the son of acting and directing great John Huston, whose best remembered acting role remains as the deeply evil Noah Cross of “Chinatown” and whose iconic films included “The Maltese Falcon,” “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” and, still going strong decades later, “Wise Blood” and “Prizzi’s Honor.” That additionally means that Danny Huston’s grandfather was the early Hollywood star and character actor Walter Huston and his half-sister is Oscar-winner Angelica Huston. Still in his forties, he also was a director early on in his career, helming 1988’s “Mr. North.”

Bosworth and Huston were there to promote their roles in “The Warrior’s Way,” which was released this last weekend in a modest wide release. In the film, the first English language starring vehicle for Korean superstar Jang Dong-gun, Bosworth plays Lynne, a knife-thrower in training bent on revenge against the man who killed her family and attacked her. Naturally, that man is the Colonel (Huston), a mask-wearing evildoer who was badly disfigured by Lynne as a young girl, so it’s clear these two just aren’t going to get along.

Off screen, however, the two got along just fine as they sang the praises of the film which none of us entertainment journalist types had actually seen. About 10-15 minutes worth of clips had been shown to us the night before, prior to a very pleasant reception with some really delicious sushi and yakitori treats. The next day we got more American style fare at the Beverly Hilton. Did I mention that the food is often the best part of a press day?

The conversation started around some of the costumes used in the film. One journalist asked Kate Bosworth if she enjoyed the costuming aspect of movie-making. This might have turned into a very interesting piece if she’d said, “God, no, I hate it!” But, of course, that’s not how she feels.

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Mandingo

When this deeply strange tale of cruelty and interracial sexual exploitation on a pre-Civil War Southern plantation directed by Richard Fleischer (“Soylent Green,” “20,000 Leagues Under the Seas”) was released in 1975, it was greeted with hoots of derision and ridiculed as cheaply sensational – and possibly racist – not only by critics, but on a raucous “Saturday Night Live” skit. More recently, writers like the outstanding cinephile blogger Dennis Cozzalio have been urging a critical reappraisal. While I admit this attempt at a sort of satirical tragedy has been misunderstood to a degree, “misunderstood” is not the same thing as “good.”

“Mandingo” stars aging screen legend James Mason as Warren Maxwell, a hateful Southern patriarch. His relatively sensitive son, Hammond (Perry King), runs into deep trouble when he takes on a new wife (Susan George) while practicing the prerogatives of a Southern “gentleman” and keeping a slave mistress (Brenda Sykes). Meanwhile, he finds himself feeling somewhat protective toward Mede (boxer Ken Norton), a fighter he has bought in much the same way a man of that time might have purchased a fighting cock. I almost wrote “fighting dog” but the double meaning here seems correct. It is the dehumanizing effects of slavery that is the laudable focus of “Mandingo,” but sensationalized 70s-style sex is the primary vehicle and selling point. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) Unfortunately, Fleischer’s film is somewhat crude stylistically, but also too polite in telling its brutal story. Worse, it’s badly marred by some weak acting, not only from acting novice Norton, but also by a shockingly mannered and subpar performance from the usually superb, British-born Mason. Although the melodrama events make for a compelling final half-hour, it’s a long, long road getting there.

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