Wolf Warrior invades the UK
Following a successful Chinese box office result and a subsequent North American release, military-actioner Wolf Warrior, starring and directed by rising star Wu Jing and co-starring Scott Adkins, finally arrives in the UK.
Leng Feng (Wu Jing), a special forces soldier, is spending time in confinement for disobeying an order and killing a notorious drug lord. However, his extraordinary marksmanship soon earns him recruitment into the elite Wolf Warrior squadron. But before long, the squadron is ambushed during a training exercise by a troop of deadly foreign mercenaries, led by the notorious Tom Cat (Adkins), who are tasked to avenge the drug lord's death.
Anyone with a remote interest in Martial Arts cinema, particularly from the Far East, will undoubtedly be up to speed on this. The movie, a military-themed action flick, marks Wu Jing's second directorial project (the first being 2008's Legendary Assassin) and would become a seven-year passion project with various developments and changes along the way. When Adkins was added to the lineup, the project definitely gained momentum and the anticipation to see a much-awaited showdown between the leads was in full effect.
The result is an entertaining, light-hearted action flick which should definitely be taken with a pinch of salt. Let's be clear: I watched this in a relaxed mindset, hardly expecting a gritty actioner. Not usually one to reference other reviews, I read comments from people who seemed to expect edgy realism. If this was the expectation, I can understand the disappointment…
Tonally, Wolf Warrior is more like a colourful 80's action flick with obligatory propaganda thrown in... swap out Reagan with heavy-handed Chinese politics and you get the vibe. If this was a Hong Kong production, it may have had potential as a modern day Eastern Condors, but anyone familiar with Chinese cinema and its politics will know the distinction straight away, in both content (action, blood, violence) but also messages and morals.
In its’ strongest areas, Wolf Warrior showcases a good variety of physical action, mixing chaotic gunplay, explosions and military action, alongside hand to hand combat utilising knives and other weapons, through to the necessary Martial Artistry and leg work. There are plenty of real hits, big wrecks and no doubt bruising physical stunts, adding to the authenticity of the action. The choreography served up by Wu Jing collaborator Li Chi-Chung is cut a little short in places, such as the final fight, but hits the right marks overall. Overall, it would have been nice to see more, particularly from the leads, who remain two of the best action stars of their generation.
Despite weak dialogue, the acting and on-screen chemistry is strong enough to keep the story moving while the natural charisma of Wu Jing and Adkins, who deserved a meatier villain role, keeps momentum high until the action pay-off. Nan Yu, recognisable from The Expendables 2, is also very watchable as the elite unit's female commander.
If you're a fan of either Wu Jing or Scott Adkins, it's a fun ride. Both actors have been busy lately, with Wu Jing appearing alongside Tony Jaa in SPL 2 and Adkins as busy as ever with Close Range, Undisputed IV, WWE Studios' Eliminators and Grimsby, to name just a few, so its good that Wolf Warrior has arrived.
The advice is to take Wolf Warrior as a light-hearted popcorn action film rather than a serious, dramatic piece. Go ahead and take a checklist: good guys dodge bullets, hero's friend with something to lose doesn't make it, bad guys snarl one-liners, fighting before they get their comeuppance and the flag flies proud. It's a throwback to the glory days of old-time action heroes. To play devil's advocate, it's funny to consider that this could be taken seriously in a real-world sense, but rather like the comical image of watching a Chuck Norris film with hand firmly on heart, it doesn't make this a requirement to watch. Audiences take different experiences from different films and, for an action genre fan, this can certainly be enjoyed for what it is.
Wolf Warrior is out now on DVD from Metrodome Distribution.