Warrior has officially arrived and this hard-charging martial arts epic is everything I was hoping for and more.
Within seconds of its opening frame, we are introduced to our titular hero Ah Sahm (Andrew Koji), a martial arts prodigy newly arrived from China determined to hunt down a shadow from his past and make the wrong things right. And damn does he move quickly. Backslapped by a pair of racist customs officer he unloads on the three of them with a vicious combination of punches and kicks and the audience is in no doubt that the action is really going to kick ass here.
Based on the writings of the legendary Bruce Lee, in its first episode “The Itchy Onion”, Warrior builds the idea that is a show with serious teeth. The punches strike hard, the characters are compelling and we are walking into a fully realized world where racism, danger and the transgressions of the past affect all in San Franciso 1870.
Series creator Jonathan Tropper (Banshee) brings his unique understanding of action television to the forefront here, and in this first episode alone we are witness to some incredible action set-ups. At the forefront of these is rising star Andrew Koji who takes on the role of Ah Sahm. Not only does he prove himself to be a skilled martial artist, but Koji brings a great dramatic range to the character of Ah Sahm that employs everything from burning rage to painful sorrow. Koji’s only getting started here and with the amount of stuff he gets up to in this first episode only bears good fortune for where he goes next.
The world building and attention to detail in this first episode of Warrior is just incredible to behold and you really get pulled into this melting pot of a setting. Americans, Chinese and Irish populate the streets of San Francisco, and the memories of the disastrous Civil War have not yet faded. This, of course, leads the pace for a tense and dangerous situation and Ah Sahm’s new involvement with the gang warfare of the Tongs and the growing threat of the Irish Mob is definitely going to lead to interesting places in the future.
And while the action does kick off with plenty of face smashing moments, Warrior really grounds itself in an emotive narrative where everything from love to fear is already being explored. This is especially clear in a burgeoning romance between Ah Sahm and brothel madam Ah Toy (Olivia Cheng) who sees this newcomer as more than just a hatchet man. And then, of course, there’s the mysterious Mai Ling (Dianne Doan) who has a connection to Ah Sahm that will blow up in a big way down the line.
The spirit of Bruce Lee is really alive in the show, not only does Koji resemble the actor in look and appearance, but his movements as Ah Sahm have the fluidity and flexibility of the great martial artist and there’s also the subtle reference to his mixed-race character with a grandfather who was American, and this of course mirrors Lee’s own real life as his grandfather was German European. Lee’s own daughter Shannon Lee is serving as a consultant on the show and it’s great to see her championing her father’s spirit and realising his dream project up on screen. I’m certain that if Bruce saw this show he’d definitely be proud of what had been accomplished here in Warrior.
We’re only getting started with Warrior and I for one am very excited to see what comes next. So get ready for plenty of fists of fury action with this one.
Warrior screens every Thursday on Neon.
Images: SKY TV