Starring: Wu Jing, Frank Grillo, Celina Jade
“They say violence never solves anything. But it sure is fun.” So says mercenary Big Daddy (Frank Grillo) in this 80s action throwback from director Wu Jing.
Now that big, adult oriented action movies have become something of a scarcity amongst all the leotard-wearing, city-pummelling trash and physics-defying, kid-friendly Vin Diesel/The Rock starring vehicles that Hollywood puts out, it’s become necessary for the more discerning viewers amongst us to look further afield for violent action done on a big scale, if you want a regular enough fix without reverting to your back catalogue of blu rays, DVDs or VHS tapes.
The movies coming out of mainland China are quite different from traditional Hong Kong action fare, frequently inaccessible to Western audiences, in my opinion, but one thing they do have going for them is a surprising willingness to show ample quantities of bloody death and destruction. Surprising especially given that there’s no rating system in China, so anyone can go to see anything.
Well, I’m back in China after a hiatus and the first movie I’ve checked out is Wolf Warrior 2, after reviewing the first one (which starred our friend Scott Adkins) on this site a few years back.
First up, I have to admit, Wolf Warrior 2 took me two attempts to sit through. The first time I watched it was during a flight. Obviously the screen was small, the sound was shitty, but it did have English subtitles. I couldn’t get through it. For some reason, having subtitles kind of ruined it. And I say that as a person who watches at least as many subtitled films and television programmes as ones in English.
The second viewing was in Chinese but without subtitles and I actually enjoyed it a lot more. That’s not to say Wolf Warrior 2 is a really good film, but I feel that in reviewing it I should go against my instincts somewhat and focus on the positives.
Wu Jing plays the elite special forces operative Lang (that’s Chinese for ‘Wolf’). Following on directly from the first film, Lang goes to honour the family of a fallen comrade (a guy who dies in very melodramatic circumstances in the first movie) and ends up losing his temper and killing some pissant gangster who was trying to demolish the grieving family’s house. For this act he gets 3 years in a military prison. Fast forward 3 years and he’s working as a private security contractor in Africa, drinking heavily, playing football with the locals and pretty much loving life.
Something has to be said about the first action sequence, which was one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever seen, possibly even topping some of the feats that Vin Diesel would have us believe he was capable of. When the container ship he’s working on is attacked by pirates in a scene highly reminiscent of Captain Phillips, Lang dives overboard (whilst everyone else is running around in a panic) then he swims under one of the pirates’ speed boats and overturns it from underneath, tipping out the occupants! A boat containing four guys armed with machetes, who he then proceeds to kick the shit out of and tie up, all under the water. With that taken care of he climbs into their boat and finds a gun which he uses to take out the rest of the pirates in another boat.
Later, Lang is in a town which is attacked by a bloodthirsty militia who shoot the shit out of the army and civilians alike. This part reminded me of similar scenes of carnage in Rambo 4, a film I’ll be mentioning again. After a lot of bodies are torn apart by fire from AK47s and Lang uses an old spring mattress to deflect an RPG, he, a local African kid he’s befriended, and some other characters take cover in the Chinese Embassy.
There ensues a lot of battles between Lang and his Chinese army buddies and this militia who, it turns out, are trying to take over the country. There’s also a plot line concerning a disease, which rings a bell from the first movie, this time beautiful Chinese American Rachel Smith (Celina Jade) is on hand looking for a cure. This brings us to another scene which stood out for me, after a car chase through a shanty town, Lang and Smith flip their jeep and land in a mass open grave of dead plague victims. Talk about bad luck.
There’s more hand to hand combat in Wolf Warrior 2 than there was in the first one. This time Wu Jing really gets to show off his martial arts skills, which is a big plus. The fight scenes were done properly and impressed me much more than those in Wolf Warrior 1, which I criticised for wasting Scott Adkins for the most part, not to mention Wu Jing himself. There’s some good fights in this one, with a lot of satisfyingly bruising contact between bodies, feet and fists.
The film also culminates in a big tank battle, which is again pretty over the top and doesn’t come across as very realistic, but was enjoyable nonetheless.
Wolf Warrior 2 doesn’t shy away from showing a lot of blood and guts. It reminded me a lot of Rambo 4 as I’ve mentioned already, except with inferior effects. Sadly most of the blood is very obvious CGI. That said, we get a massive helping of punishing bullet hits, skulls being blown out and even a guy exploding when he’s run over by a tank. Shit!
The final fight between Wu Jing and chief villain Frank Grillo (who plays a foreign mercenary just like Scott Adkins did in the first one) is also quite sadistic and bloody. Nice.
Special mention to Russian actor Oleg Prudius, built like a fucking tank, who plays one of Frank Grillo’s men, he’s also gone uncredited as a Russian Assassin in both John Wick Chapter 2 and Fast and Furious 8 (meh) as well as being a WWE wrestler I believe. He has a great screen presence and adds some mild comic relief.
So all in all, I had a reasonable amount of fun watching this the second time. As long as you don’t pay too much attention to the plot, it delivers action in spades and I’m pretty sure this would be rated 18 in the UK if it went uncut. Be warned though, the flag waving is turned up to 11 this time around (literally) and it was bad enough in the first one. Wolf Warrior 2 ends with a special message for Chinese citizens around the world, which my wife found quite bemusing.
Wu Jing seems to be styling himself as the Chinese equivalent of Rambo, a full blooded combat soldier with a troubled past but a good heart. And I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of him. A post-credit sequence indicates that the next film will be set in the middle east, presumably pitting China’s most elite soldier against ISIS. If I’m still around when it comes out I’ll go see it.
For bad story and excessive flag waving, but commendable amounts violence and gore with pretty good production values, (CGI helicopters and blood squibs notwithstanding) I’d give this a 6.