Director: Wu Jing
Starring: Wu Jing, Yu Nan, Scott Adkins, Ni Dahong
Sniper in the Chinese military, Leng Feng (Wu Jing) finds himself under disciplinary action when he chooses to disobey a stand down order and shoots a criminal holding a hostage. Instead of getting kicked out of service, he is instead recruited into the elite Wolf Squad Unit, led by female commander Long Xiaoyun (Yu Nan). Finding camaraderie, Leng and his new squadron partake in a series of wargames against his former unit in the military near the border. Unknown to the soldiers in the field, the brother of the man killed by Leng is a powerful and vengeful trafficker (Ni Dahong) who has recruited a sadistic and highly trained group of foreign mercenaries, led by a former SEAL named Tomcat (Scott Adkins). When Leng and his squadmates find themselves under live fire, the Wolf Unit must bare its fangs and protect the border from this illegal and violent incursion by foreign forces.
The sophomore directorial effort by Wushu-practitioner Wu Jing, Wolf Warriors made a healthy showing in local markets, helped in no small part I’m sure by 3D screenings and a very heavy handed patriotic sentiment. While international markets will no doubt be able to empathize with the idea of protecting their country, the moments of nationalism will definitely lead to shaking heads and moments that take you out of the picture. The film certainly seems backed by the government considering the talent involved and the use of military vehicles is small by no means. Tanks, aircraft, and the use of bases are shown in close detail to show the effort and in this respect succeeds in creating believable troops and set and prop design. This illusion is lost however, when we get to the shoddy looking visual effects and the sometimes lack of tactics in the action scenes.
A very quick 90 minutes, the film doesn’t hesitate to get to the action quickly and for the entire duration. Setpieces are more of a gunfight variety though there is a bit of hand to hand and weapon fights that are cool for their duration, but never last too long. Perhaps most unfortunate is the fact that the top billed action stars, Wu Jing and Scott Adkins, have the slightest of fights towards the end that squanders their athleticism and talent. The two, along with the many other stuntmen do put their bodies through the ringer and there are some impressive falls and some not so impressive wire assisted leaps. The film would have benefited from a solid realistic take for the action or a more swashbuckling take than a weird amalgam of the two.
In the end, Wolf Warriors dabbles in ultraviolence and that in itself should satisfy less discerning action viewers, but its uneven tone and reliance on nationalism will have less of an impact on many international viewers. While it does deliver a number of interesting action scenes, the net result is an unfortunately forgettable film that doesn’t yet show enough merit in Wu Jing transition from actor to director’s seat.
Special Thanks to Well Go USA for providing a viewing copy!