Director: Wu Jing
Starring: Wu Jing, Frank Grillo, Celina Jade, Zhang Han
After Wolf Warriors entertaining but ultimately forgettable entry in 2015, I generally had tempered hopes for Wu’s follow up, ostensibly named Wolf Warriors 2. Thankfully this sequel, while maybe even more fettered with Nationalistic propaganda, still delivers one of the most explosive and fully entertaining pure action films of the year. Here, we find Leng (Wu), after the events of the first film serving time in prison for retaliating against a corrupt estate head and being released, loosing his rank in the process. Choosing to travel to Africa where his fiancee Long (Yu Nan) was killed on mission during his incarceration, the only clue being a unique bullet, he works as a bodyguard and general badass while searching for clues in a country torn by political conflict and the onset of an outbreak. When the brutal Red Scarf rebel army attacks, the Chinese government has their hands tied being unable to send military in adherence to UN protocol but the recently demoted Leng has no such restrictions. Sent to retrieve a high value target, he comes to protect a young girl and doctor (Jade) who are being pursued by the Red Scarf Army and their hired band of international mercenaries, led by Big Daddy (Grillo).
Right off the bat the film kicks the action into overdrive with an exciting piracy sequence that is both inventive and unlike anything I’d seen before. Offering a good visual method to establish just much of expert Wu’s character is, this opening sequence is both entertaining and good appetizer for what’s to come. From here, the film hardly lets up with the threat of random attacks by the Red Scarf Army always looming. Here one of the most noticeable differences in international action cinema makes an appearance; the proclivity to kill innocents and collateral damage. With civilians, both young and old, being mowed down relentlessly, the film can shock those unused to this type of film; indeed, I was a little taken aback at first because it even goes beyond what I’d seen in recent films myself, definitely more of a throwback to decades past.
The picture continues with a blistering pace, that offer both a mix of armed techniques, both firearm and knife, as well as multiple hand to hand sequences. Action directors Sam Hargrave and Wong Wai Leung temper a great mix of sequences that keep even experienced action film lovers guessing. The only misstep is perhaps a well-intentioned tank scene that starts off very poorly but cleans up its act later on to save the scene, a minor gripe in all truth.
Wu’s third directorial effort has definitely shown a more refined technique compared to the very rough Legendary Assassin and the solid but forgettable Wolf Warriors. Using a number of dynamic techniques, especially in that opening action sequence wow, the action scenes and dramatic interludes keep the audience invested despite some fluff. Wu himself is the consummate honorable badass, absorbing ridiculous amounts of damage like Chinese John McClane and John Rambo. Great stuntwork and great deal of real pain show just how much of himself he put into his picture. Jade is solid as Rachel, the doctor under Leng’s care as is Diana Sylla who plays a young child traveling with them both. Zhang Han’s character Fan is your typical rich kid playing at war who definitely rubs you the wrong way initially, but his character has some good moments, eventually fighting alongside Leng as well as Wu Gang’s Lin who works as a security consultant in Fan’s father’s factory. While they never measure up action wise to Wu, they both steal a handful of scene respectively. Grillo generally chews scenery for the majority of the film, only truly making an action appearance in the final act but his screen charisma and aura automatically impress just how dangerous an individual his Big Daddy character truly is. His mercenaries themselves are quite good wit a stable of recognizable stunt performers like Heidi Moneymaker, Aaron Toney, Oleg Prudius, and Aaron Lee portraying the A Team.
As a film, Wolf Warriors doesn’t break new ground, it’s a commando story that paints it in black and white with little diversion for motivation or misdirection. Wu thankfully keeps this in focus, delivering a breathtaking action film that is solidly in the running for my favorite action film of the year, no joke. After the global dominance of its first week in theatres, I’m inclined to say a good chunk of the world agrees as well.
Thanks to the good folks over at Well go USA for providing a screening copy!