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Martial Arts meets the 1800s Wild West in Warrior, when Ah Sahm immigrates to San Francisco and becomes a hatchet man for the most powerful gang in Chinatown.

There’s nothing quite like setting foot in a foreign land and immediately making your mark. Warrior, the last original show produced by Cinemax, picked up by HBO Max for the third season and subsequently cancelled, has now found it’s way to Netflix and hoo boy, people are excited.

They should be. Warrior is a heady mixture of gangster machinations, political manoeuvrings, racial tensions, and outstanding martial arts battles, all set against the backdrop of 1870s San Francisco.

The idea of a martial artist landing in the American Old West was originally pitched by Bruce Lee in 1971 (and arguably retooled as Kung Fu).

What Is Warrior About?

Warrior draws on Lee’s original ideas and develops them into a hell of a ass-kicking show.

Its time is roughly split into a triumvirate of gangster Tongs, predominantly Irish descendants in the police and undercut local labourers, and politicians caught between the benefit of cheap Chinese labour and the usefulness of stoking racial fires.

The result is a simmering seething mix that is always ready to explode into violence.

And explode it does. Lead star Andrew Koji (Bullet Train) plays the lethal Ah Sahm, a superbly skilled martial artist who lands on the shores of San Fransisco in search of his sister, Xiaojing.

Fresh off the boat and clearly able to fight, Ah Sahm finds himself bought by the Hop Wei tong and put to work as an enforcer.

Little does he know that far from needing rescuing, his sister has renamed herself Mai Ling (Dianne Doan) and married the boss of the Hop Wei’s biggest rivals, the Long Zil.

Mai Ling doesn’t want or need her brother’s help, which threatens to destabilise her own hard fought self agency both within Chinatown and the local government of San Francisco.

Koji is a standout star who delivers each aspect of his character. Although he claims to not want to get involved, his knowledge that he can win almost any fight means he struggles to not intervene.

He expresses the pain behind the eyes to sell the human moments but mixes this with wounded pride; fighting skill can’t solve everything. Koji bristles with a magnetic charm that acts as the lynchpin of the show.

Warrior Official Trailer

Is Warrior Worth Watching?

Warrior is bursting with a whole host of rich characters. Up against Ah Sahm is the feared Long Zil right hand man, Li Yong (Joe Taslim – The Raid: Redemption), as well as a police force that doesn’t look too kindly on Chinese with ideas above their allotted station.

Young Jun (Jason Tobin) is a particular delight, as the hot headed and filthy minded heir apparent of the Hop Wei. His quick friendship with Ah Sahm drives much of the three seasons as it first strengthens, then sours.

Each season does a superb job of building to an emotional and action packed climax.

That said, it’s hard to top the riot that explodes in the back end of season 2, where racist and deprived Irish labourers decide to destroy Chinatown, only to be met with fierce resistance.

Of the three plot spinning plates the political and police story lines are slower to pick up speed.

Bullish cop Bill O’Hara (Kieran Bew) is initially hard to connect with considering at every opportunity he makes the worst possible choice (Bill! No!). However, once he rounds out and learns from his mistakes – even if he can’t escape them – the show is richer for it.

Guerrilla thug Dylan Leary (Dean Jagger) similarly finds his stride in later seasons, as he learns that power without precision solves little.

The list goes on. You get a sardonic player of both sides in Chao (Hoon Lee), a lethal brothel madam in the superb Ah Toy (Olivia Cheng), and devious political mastermind in Buckley (Langley Kirkwood), plus a whole host of others.

Warrior always feels like a very lived in world, stocked with characters that jump out of the screen. Even the best choreographed fights are for nothing if we don’t care who they are happening to.

And what fights they are! Warrior has some of the most satisfyingly bone crunching martial arts you could wish for in a television show.

Each impact is felt with full force yet flung with deceptive beauty. At times the show is clearly contriving to insert as many fights as it can get away with (the underground battle ring sub-plot a prime example) but when they are this good it is hard to call foul on any of it.

Over the course of three seasons Warrior fights on, and we can only hope that Netflix fund a fourth.

Until then, good luck trying to get the show’s rather colourful slang out of your head.

Words by Mike Record

*Warrior is available on Netflix US or Apple TV+ outside of the US.


  • Outstanding Fight Choreography
  • Knock Out Cast, Both Central And Otherwise
  • Plot Lines All Fit Together Nicely
  • Koji Is Brilliant


  • A Few Characters Are Dumped Unsatisfyingly
  • It Is Really Hard To Unhear The Slang For 'Intimacy'
  • Takes A While For The Police Plot To Get Up To Speed


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