Director: Wu Jing
Cast: Wu Jing, Frank Grillo, Celina Jade, Wu Gang, ZhangHan, Ding Hai Feng, Chunyu Shan Shan, Yu Nan, Yu Qian, Shi Zhao Qi
Runtime: 2 hrs 4 mins
Rating: NC-16 (Violence and Coarse Language)
Released By: Shaw
Opening Day: 28 July 2017
Synopsis: Leng Feng (Wu Jing) was experiencing the lowest point of his life at the vast ocean near Africa. Depressed, he thought he would rather drift for his whole life. An unexpected accident ruins his plan, and he is forcefully brought into an African civil war.
If you didn’t like ‘Wolf Warrior’ for its flag-waving propaganda, then you’re not likely to love ‘Wolf Warrior 2’ any better. As much as it showcased director-star Wu Jing’s awesome fighting skills, that 2015 feature-length spinoff of a TV series abundantly supported by the Nanjing military was pure unabashed jingoism. This sequel – despite stripping our lead hero Leng Feng of his rank and medals at the beginning after he accidentally kills a ruthless property developer who threatens the family of a fallen comrade – is just as filled with nationalistic fervour:
- When the female doctor Rachel (Celina Jade) he rescues from a hospital suggests that they go to the American consulate for help, Leng Feng replies sarcastically that they have all but left the civil wartorn African country;
- When Leng Feng’s nemesis Big Daddy (Frank Grillo) says that people like [Leng Feng] will always be inferior to people like him, the former says ‘that’s fucking history’;
- When their convoy of trucks bearing Chinese and African evacuees approaches a conflict zone, Leng Feng proudly unfurls the Chinese flag so they will have safe passage to the Chinese-established refugee camps behind; and
- Last but not least, just before the closing credits, the image of a Chinese passport flashes onto the screen, with a message to all overseas Chinese citizens not to fear when faced with imminent danger in a foreign country, for there is a strong motherland that will protect them.
But if you’re willing to ignore these explicit political overtones, you’re likely to find a reasonably entertaining B-action thriller with plenty of fighting, shootouts and explosions. Reuniting with his three co-writers Liu Yi, Qun Dong and Yan Gao, Jing relocates the action to the African continent, or more specifically an unnamed fictional African country whose Government is under fire from a rebel faction known as the Red Scarfs (no kidding, because they don red scarfs around their neck) and a shady military corporation Dyon looking to profit from the conflict. Through a series of recurring flashbacks, we learn that Leng Feng was sentenced to three years in military prison after the unintentional murder, during which time his Special Forces unit commander Long Xiao Yun (Yu Nan) and lover had proposed to him but then fallen into the hands of enemy forces while on a mission. The only clue of what had befallen her was a bullet found at the scene of her capture, which Leng Feng had followed all the way to Africa itself.
The disgraced Leng Feng gets his shot at redemption when he learns of an eminent Chinese doctor and 47 other Chinese citizens trapped in the St. Francis hospital inside the country; and whether out of narrative convenience or to demonstrate that China does play by international rules (if you’ve seen ‘Operation Mekong’, you’ll know what we mean), the Chinese naval fleet at the country’s port is unable to launch its own rescue operations without an official request for assistance from the beleaguered Government and/or United Nations authorisation. Unfortunately, Leng Feng arrives too late to save the doctor; instead, with the pretty Rachel and a young African girl named Pasha whom the late doctor asks him to look after in his dying breath, Leng Feng heads to the Chinese-invested Hanbond Factory to rescue his own god-son’s birth mother Nessa, where coincidentally many Chinese workers happen to be holed up with their African counterparts amidst the rebel onslaught.
Unlike the first movie, Leng Feng is his own man here, and by that we mean his own one-man army. The opening sequence sees him single-handedly foiling a couple of pirates attempting to rob a Chinese cargo vessel by leaping into the ocean, overturning their speedboat and knocking them out underwater. Later on, Leng Feng will also single-handedly protect his ‘god-son’ Tundu as well as a Chinese supermarket owner in the midst of a fierce street battle between the army and the rebels, even using a mattress coil to temporary stop an RPG and divert it somewhere else. Such inflated heroics are not only laughable, but also undermine the gravity of the situation we are supposed to believe Leng Feng is confronted with. Thankfully, Leng Feng finds companion by the time he arrives at the factory in the form of its head of security He Jianguo (Wu Gang), who happens to another former PLA soldier. Together with the factory owner’s overzealous son Fan (Han Zhang), Leng Feng and Jianguo form a guerrilla-like strike force to fend off a series of assaults by the rebel army and Dyon’s paid militia, the latter led by Big Daddy.
It isn’t hard to guess that Big Daddy is somehow linked to Xiao Yun’s kidnapping, culminating therefore in a mano-a-mano showdown between him and Leng Feng – similar to how the previous movie had led up to that between Wu Jing and English martial arts actor Scott Adkins. Compared to that however, Wu Jing’s supposed piece de resistance with Grillo pales in intensity and chutzpah; instead, it is an earlier MMA-style fight between Wu Jing and Aaron Toney’s unnamed baddie that is more impressive. That said, each one of the action sequences are undeniably well-coordinated by Sam Hargrave (on recommendation by ‘Captain America: Civil War’s’ Russo brothers, no less) and expertly directed by Jack Wong Wai-leung (who was also responsible for ‘Operation Mekong’) – the earlier-mentioned street war is brutal and riveting; a vehicular chase among two Jeeps, a motorcycle and a ATV mounted with machine gun through an African shantytown is rousing; the initial attack by the rebels on the factory using snipers and weaponised drones is inventive; and last but not least, the tank-on-tanks action in the elaborate finale is thrilling.
Certainly, ‘Wolf Warrior 2’ isn’t the sort of movie you should be bothered about character development or award-calibre acting, but Wu Jing does make for a suitably upright and virtuous hero. There are no shades of complexity to his character Leng Feng, so it really doesn’t matter that Wu Jing plays it straight from start to finish. Just like its predecessor, this sequel is simply an opportunity to indulge in the sort of B-action fare that Hollywood used to excel at in the 80s and 90s, albeit with a strong – and some would say, suffocating – pro-China slant. One can imagine that a large number of ‘Wolf Warrior’ fans are in fact such fervent nationalists in the first place, and it is only logical that Wu Jing decides to play to the gallery here. Like we said at the start, if you can put up with ‘Wolf Warrior’, you probably won’t mind that this movie also wears its [China] flag around its chest (not just its sleeve) – and if you love ‘Wolf Warrior 2’, well you’ll be delighted to know the epilogue that shows Xiao Yun being held hostage but still alive portends the concluding chapter of a trilogy which will see Leng Feng embark undoubtedly on his most personal mission yet.
(As unabashedly jingoistic as its predecessor, Wu Jing's 'Wolf Warrior 2's' well-executed stunts and action showpieces make it slick B-action fare, albeit with a strong - even suffocating - pro-China slant)
Review by Gabriel Chong