By John Liu
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Wolf Warriors 2 (WW2) has currently made over $768.5 million (including online ticketing fees) at the box office and has taken the crown from The Mermaid as China’s highest grossing movie and surpassed Avatar’s $760.5 million (U.S. domestic gross) in only 24 days. With all these great box office milestones, I was intrigued and wanted to see what the hype was about. I saw the movie on Aug. 4, when Seattle’s smog-pocalypse was at its prime. In North America, there are only 32 screens playing WW2, so Seattle is lucky to have AMC Pacific Place, which specializes in mainstream Asian-Pacific movies. I thought there would be only 20 people watching. Boy, was I wrong. The theater was packed almost entirely with Chinese mainlanders. The only language I heard spoken in the audience was Mandarin.
Within the first five minutes of the movie, someone in the audience commented about the action scenes being fake. In general, Chinese mainlanders have a preference for huge 3D blockbusters with a superficial plot. This fit the bill nicely. WW2 is directed by Wu Jing, who also plays the lead character Leng Feng. This movie makes plenty of sense without seeing the first Wolf Warriors.
You might miss some minor connections to the first one, but you should have no trouble following this movie. It starts off with Leng Feng returning the ashes of his fallen comrade to his family and arrives just in time to prevent a construction crew from demolishing his house and burial ground. Leng Feng loses his cool after being provoked by a construction supervisor and kills him out of rage. While in jail, Leng Feng learns his fiancee was murdered in Africa. A bullet with a special engraving is his only clue as to who did it. After Leng Feng is released from jail, he wanders around Africa to uncover the truth of what happened to his fiancee. Rebels attack him and his friends, and Leng Feng seeks the assistance of the Chinese government. However, due to United Nations treaties, the Chinese government is unable to send reinforcements. Leng Feng volunteers to lead a rescue mission for an important character by himself. If this sounds familiar, it’s the plot of Sylvester Stallone’s “Rambo” movies.
Going into the movie without expecting any major plot is kind of a relief. The dialogue was a little bland at times, but the jokes were generally funny, even though I was reading the subtitles. Action scenes were over the top, but enjoyable nonetheless. It felt like I was watching Jackie Chan’s Rush Hour with a blend of Black and Chinese culture. The only two actors in WW2 I recognized were Celina Jade and Frank Grillo. Jade had a small role in Man with the Iron Fists, but her other roles are mostly in Chinese movies. Grillo, as you may recall, was also the villain in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and was briefly in CA: Civil War.
Near the end of the movie, there are a few scenes that bring Chinese patriotism upfront and center. In fact, the director, Wu Jing, is being called out by Chinese mainlanders as being hypocritical for always citing the line from the movie during public appearances, “The passport of the People’s Republic of China might not be able to bring you everywhere around the world, but it can certainly bring you home safe no matter where you are and what troubles you have run into.” Wu Jing is a Hong Kong citizen, his wife is a green card holder, and his son is a British citizen. ■
Wolf Warrior 2 is playing at AMC Pacific Place for a few more weeks.
John can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.