I’ve noticed that I have a knack for finding hidden, semi-popular, well constructed, impressionable, cumbersome, liked, adored and/or arguable movie gems.

A handful have summoned themselves in my brain over the last couple of days that fit this description such as: Fire & Ice (1983), Help! I’m a Fish (2000), Tom Sawyer (2000), Wizards (1977), Rock & Rule (1983), Titan A.E. (2000), Spycies (2019), Firedrake: The Silver Dragon (2020), Gen 13 (1998), Forever My Love (1962), Little Nemo (1992), Capture the Flag (2015), Justin and the Knights of Valour (2013), Babes in Toyland (1997), We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story (1993), Starchaser: The Legend of Orin (1985), the Dragon Nest films (2014 & 2016), Dinotopia (2005) to note a few.

Enter the Warriors Gate definitely counts as one or more of the categories said above.

I was on Netflix, venturing the screen to see what’s there when I suddenly found Enter the Warriors Gate and saw Dave Bautista’s name in the cast listing. You could only guess the look of surprise on my face that day. I think I laughed for a little bit.

For those who might not know, Dave Bautista is a former WWE wrestler turned actor. He began his brawling career back in 1999, participated in WWE events from 2002 to 2011, 2014 and one final run in 2018-19. People know him best for his acting role as Drax the Destroyer from the Guardians of the Galaxy films and Trent DeRosa in Escape Plan 2: Hades (2018) as well as Escape Plan 3: The Extractors (2019).

The second Escape Plan movie wasn’t so good according to Rotten Tomatoes. 8%! Ha! I almost fell off my bed wizzing. Regardless of that, he tried. Bautista is one of the small amount of wrestlers who have done some acting like CM Punk, The Rock, John Cena, Paige, Roman Reigns, Big Show, The Miz and so on that I can recall.

While reading Enter the Warriors Gate’s outline, it reminded me of another film I haven’t seen yet with a similar theme where a white boy is transported into ancient China, The Forbidden Kingdom (2008) is what it’s called. Apparently, Bautista’s movie was seen as a ripoff.

Anyway, Enter the Warriors Gate is a 2016 Chinese-French action-adventure-fantasy film that stars Bautista as the antagonist named Arun the Cruel, the Terrible, the Horrible, the Miserable. But they call him “Arun the Cruel” for short. Who wouldn’t want to watch this motion picture because of that name just out of curiosity? Unless it’s only me…

The summary goes as follows: “An avid gamer is magically transported to ancient China, where he must become a warrior in order to save the princess from an evil warlord.” Of course, given the synopsis it shows interest. Hmm?

I didn’t realize it at first, especially after watching this film five times, but now I see why this movie got 50% on Rotten Tomatoes. Oof. It’s like half of it is good and the other half is questionable. Which makes the 100%. Before anyone feels the need to throw a tantrum against a defenceless tree, hear me out. It’s not that bad.

Do you want the good parts or the bad parts first? I thought I’d soften the blow by starting with the raging parts, the bad ones I concluded as to why the film fired bullets to its own boat and sank. Cuz it was floating just fine … for a moment, but a moment is all it takes.

Let me be blunt. Bautista’s character, Arun, was barely an antagonist. Very underutilized. Into the dumpster fire he goes. He’s meant to be the … I don’t think King is the right word, so the leader of his fearsome band of barbarians. Only, he wasn’t.

There were times it felt like I was watching someone whose been given the script two hours prior to shooting the movie, and now he has to work with whatever he has. Arun wasn’t cruel, terrible, horrible, nor miserable in the way that should have complimented the character rather than go against it. It’s almost like Bautista didn’t care to add some effort.

I suspect it was a temporary lapse in direction from the crew because their version of an antagonist for this motion picture is wrong. They could have tried to make us understand why Arun is how he is. Why does he rob and pillage? His need for becoming emperor to take over the capital, why? Means to his purpose would be nice. It can’t just be for power — they did not say…

It didn’t help either when I saw Su Lin and Arun next to each other knowing he’s forcing her to marry him and the age gap was staggering.

Bautista’s acting skills are unbalanced to me, he’s good in some places then completely fails elsewhere. What’s up with that?

Shockingly, he wasn’t the only one whose character has been slightly off to me. His barbarian army wasn’t even intimidating in the slightest. They aren’t brutal enough. To me, they seemed confused and lost rather than comical. It’s as if they didn’t know that we’re no longer in rehearsals. We’re filming now.

You can’t bestow such a name to a person and make them have little to no accuracy. That’s rude.

Want to know what else is rude? The kill counts aren’t believable. There’s a scene I’ve noticed every time I’ve seen this movie where Arun, his right hand Brutus, and the army arrive in a village to mark what it is they’ve taken as their own. Money, food, slaves.

One of Arun’s men tells him they’re low on slaves since they only have 26. Arun orders Brutus to kill the one in charge of the slave trade, yet mistakenly eliminates the wrong cousin. And during that execution, or shortage of, the budget clearly didn’t go to making dead people seem dead.

It was in desperate need of blood.

They really thought I wouldn’t notice that once the camera zoomed out from the man’s face, that the sword Brutus uses to kill him didn’t go through his abdomen, but instead between his right arm and waist, completely missing the target. Whaa—?

I was flabbergasted. I felt gaslighted. No words can describe this except for how embarrassing that must be for the crew. Holy Christ!

There was something else that had insufficiency, the setting. We’re in ancient China, so why didn’t I see more of it? I think the movie could have benefited more by ensuring it lands at the two hour mark. It would have cleared some space for additional storytelling for Arun, Jack, princess Su Lin, the Wizard and maybe even Brutus. If it really wanted to be great, the crew should have expanded their work a little better.

Like that bizarre scene where they transformed Brutus into a 3D CGI giant was a horrendous choice for starters.

Furthermore, I thought their aim at giving the main character, Jack, a friend who was amazingly forgettable is a big what the hell? Hector is the guy’s name. He wasn’t there to help Jack when he was getting bullied, nor was he part of the adventure to China.

When I did remember of his existence, I pondered why was he here? An unnecessary and inconsequential character altogether. With or without him the story would have progressed the same.

I want to say I feel the same about Jack’s somewhat in and out mom, Annie, who also felt absent. It hit too closely to Hector’s character. But what Hector and Jack didn’t have was a connection whilst Annie and Jack did as mother and son. It didn’t last too long since we had to jump back in time, but in the little amount we were granted, they made that relationship wholesome.

Zha Ka (left) as Brutus alongside Dave Bautista sporting a new look in a still from Enter the Warriors Gate. Photo: IMDB

To tailgate the topic of relationships, Arun and Brutus’ exchanges are amusing. Their gags as they portray superiority and most trusted officer kind of communication was well done. The scenes I laughed at the most were when Brutus eliminates the wrong person, leaving Arun to come up with a signal only for Brutus to not understand.

Jack and Zhao’s friendship is also well-paced. Jack does go into more detail about his bully to someone who travelled through a box, surely turning into a mutual standpoint. Zhao teaches Jack an important lesson in combat maneuvers as Jack teaches the warrior how to swim. Win win.

If the film took the two hour route, these friendships would have been better nourished and full. But we can’t always get what we want, especially when it makes sense.

Oh, oh, oh, this one scene had me cackling too much, which is when Arun tells us about his most loyal animals: horses. They were fed and nursed by his hands only, hence the failed attempt to escape Jack, princess Su Lin and warrior Zhao go through.

Arun says “They [his horses] are more loyal than all of my men. They would die for me,” and I replied under my breath “Well, that’s unfortunate for them, they didn’t ask to be sacrificed like bacon on a grill.” These poor creatures don’t know what they’re doing. Such a shame.

At first glance, it does seem like I’ve been going on an onslaught on the technicalities of this entertainment, yet I truly meant it when I said it isn’t that bad. I do like it. The design for the characters are amazing, but watch it at your own convenience.

Although slightly wonky, the story of a gamer boy learning to have more faith in himself to stand up to his bullies, venture through a time travelling box to save a soon-to-be Empress from a Goddamn evil warlord and pay his debts. Inspiring … if they include the edits I just said.

At least we get a fake Santa Claus beard, a wig and tons of foolishness known as panting.


Enter the Warriors Gate (2016)

Directed By: Matthias Hoene
Written By: Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen
Cast: Mark Chao, Ni Ni, Dave Bautista
Runtime: 1 hour and 48 minutes.

RELATED LINKS:

Slam Wrestling’s Squared Circle Cinema and Shots: The Evolution of the (Acting) Animal, Dave Bautista

Slam Wrestling’s Batista Story and Interview archive

 

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Slam Wrestling's Hollywood Headlock Ratings Scale

1: Unsafe Worker (Avoid!)
2: Pre-Show Performer
3: Mid-Card Material
4: Main Eventer
5: World Title Winner