Director: Jiang Cong
Cast: Max Zhang, Aarif Rahman, Jiang Luxia
Runtime: 1 hr 46 mins
Rating: NC16 (Some Violence)
Released By: Shaw Organisation
Opening Day: 22 September 2022
Synopsis: In the 21st century, China is at a critical juncture of transforming into a world superpower. In every corner of the world, a group of little-known Chinese diaspora quietly shoulders the heavy burden of defending the interests of China….
Lest anyone need a reminder of how the PRC has expanded both its economic and military presence in tandem over the past decade, ‘Wolf Pack’ reinforces that message with a loud, bombastic military adventure set in the mountainous Central Asia region. Unhappy over the Government’s cooperation with the PRC on a mega natural gas project, the boss of a wealthy oil conglomerate has enlisted the services of a local terrorist organisation to destroy the pipeline, first by replacing the pipeline’s pressure regulators with fake ones and when that fails, to place an explosive device directly within a section of the pipeline.
It will come down to a team of seasoned mercenaries to foil the attacks. Diao (Max Zhang) is their leader, a fearless warrior whose code of honour inspires both respect and obedience; he also happens to be one of the co-founders of the private military company his team is employed under. Joining Diao are five other brothers-in-arms who go by such fearsome names as Fly (Liu Ye), Monstrosity (Jiang Luxia), Bombshell (Tang Kuo-chung), Fireball (Mark Luu) and Saiyan (Zhang Yi), each with his or her specific set of skills that he or she brings to the field.
The wild card on this latest mission is Ke Tong (Aarif Rahman), a young medic whom Monstrosity kidnaps on Diao’s orders to assist them in their mission. Though initially reluctant, Ke Tong’s curiosity is piqued when he discovers that Diao might be connected to his late father, and stays on with the team to find out more. As coincidence would have it, Ke Tong will find himself putting his own self-taught skills to good use, engaging in fierce shootouts and hostage rescues to hold his surprising own alongside his far more experienced counterparts.
There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that action is the operative word here, not least when ‘Wolf Pack’ moves at such a feverish pace that it barely slows down throughout its 105-minute duration to let you catch your breath. In that department, director Michael Chiang has veteran stunt choreographer Tung Wai to thank for the mostly exhilarating stunts, whether is it a foot or vehicular chase or a more elaborate sequence like an ambush on the terrorists’ village stronghold. Together with cinematographer Wong Wing-hung, another Hong Kong veteran, Tung brings us right into the heart of the pulse-pounding action, with none of that shaky-cam or excessive close-ups to distract us from the realism of the execution.
It certainly helps that each one of the actors here were chosen less for their dramatic skills than for their athleticism. Zhang is swift and lethal, especially in a mano-a-mano knife fight with fellow martial artist Diego Dati’s terrorist leader. Rahman proves he is much more than a pretty face, doing his own stunts whether clinging onto a speeding truck or chasing a baddie on top of a shophouse roof. Jiang shows she’s lost none of that military training from Dante Lam’s ‘Operation Red Sea’ four years ago, and the rest of the supporting cast likewise carry off their respective parts with nimble poise.
Yet its single-minded focus on chasing the next action scene immediately after the last means that there is barely room for any plot or character development. The relationship between Diao and Ke Tong barely registers half an hour into the film; ditto the supposed camaraderie between Monstrosity and Fireball, which fizzles out all too quickly. On the other hand, the last third tries to stuff too much while building up to its climax, resulting in an overcomplicated finale with plenty of technical mumbo-jumbo. That it stays firmly in B-movie territory is entirely of its own volition, but also why ‘Wolf Pack’ never rises above the sort of jingoistic fare Hollywood used to do in the 1980s.
On a purely visceral level though, ‘Wolf Pack’ does fulfil its mission of being an adrenaline-pumping military thriller. The action is balls-to-the-wall intense, brutal and even relentless, for better as well as for worse. Its titular similarity with ‘Wolf Warrior’ and ‘Wolf Warrior 2’ is no coincidence; this is producer Lv Jianmin’s idea of creating yet another ultra-nationalistic action franchise, though not quite with the same level of box-office success. Still, as long as you’re prepared to put politics aside, ‘Wolf Pack’ is still a worthy, hard-boiled military action thriller full of brawn, bullets and bombast.
(The very definition of action-packed, this intense, brutal and relentless military thriller gets the adrenaline-pumping job done)
Review by Gabriel Chong