Make way for "The Warrior," the latest in a venerable tradition of arty slice-'em-ups that prostrate before the slaughter churches of Akira Kurosawa and Sergio Leone, filmmakers who have ritualized movie violence into a kind of religion.
The feature debut of British filmmaker Asif Kapadia, this lushly recycled piece of goods relates the story of Lafcadia, a feudal Indian warrior (Irfan Khan) who decides that he's had enough of the raping-and-pillaging lifestyle and wants to return to his mountain homeland to live in peace with his adolescent son.
Lafcadia renounces his sword for good, but never say never, right? As in the hundreds upon hundreds of gangster thrillers, westerns and samurai pictures about antiheroes who choose to reform, the big boss (the neighborhood warlord, in this case) is not about to let one of his stooges go straight without a fight.
The ex-warrior can barely take two steps out of town before warlord loyalists make things nasty for him and for the dozens of poor villagers who happen to be in the wrong place amid this deadly pursuit. Lafcadia's legacy of blood and death haunts him, most ironically in the person of a young thief he befriends who turns out to be the sole survivor of a peasant family wiped out in a warrior raid.
You know that Lafcadia has finally found redemption when snow falls to cleanse his sins. Kapadia encases this and other cliches (dig the holy blind woman with lie-detector hands) in pictorial shots of Rajasthan calculated to take our breath. It is chockablock with brutality, but the violence is of the high-minded, self-congratulatory sort that indicates without actually showing. This enables macho-but-sensitive cineastes to revel remorselessly in the idea of decapitated heads, sliced necks and severed limbs.
"The Warrior" marches into theaters dragging all sorts of prizes from England -- including one for best British film from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, along with the endorsement of "The English Patient's" Anthony Minghella, who is into languid movies such as this with pretty, widescreen landscapes.
MPAA rating: R for some violence
A Miramax Films release. Director Asif Kapadia. Producer Bertrand Faivre. Executive producers Paul Webster, Hanno Huth. Screenplay by Asif Kapadia & Tim Miller. Director of photography Roman Osin. Editor Ewa J. Lind. Costume designer Louis Sterjnsward. Music Dario Marianelli. Production designer Adrian Smith. Running time: 1 hour, 26 minutes.
At the ArcLight, 6360 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood, (323) 464-4226; Laemmle's Royal, 11523 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.,  477-5581.