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It wasn't too long ago I saw Donnie Yen's Kung Fu Jungle, which offered a triumphant display of frenetically paced, vicious fight sequences, that continuously delivered in originality and entertainment. To say China is renowned for delivering outstanding martial arts movies, would be an understatement – sadly though, Wolf Warrior, does not continue the tradition. Though the words 'breathtaking martial arts' appears on the top of the box I purchased, let me assure viewers of this statement's inaccuracy. It is unfortunate the fight sequences failed to convey anything original, however, the addendum that these scenes only comprise less than five minutes of the feature's entirety, only adds to the disappointment.
Lead actor Wu Jing, who was involved in writing and directing this production, clearly sets himself up as an action hero, his character surviving a number of confrontations that would surely kill any ordinary human being. However, despite even this, the film seldom enthralls. A particularly entertaining scene sees Jing running from cover to cover, avoiding an enemy sniper's fire, however, even this moment is rather dull in contrast with how outstandingly tense it could have been.
Leng Feng (Jing) is a brilliant sniper, whose reckless behavior, in order to save the lives of his fellow soldiers, results in his military career being called into question. Long Xiaoyun (the beautiful Yu Nan) sees Feng's potential, and recruits him into a secret Special Forces group – the War Wolves, a collection of some of China's most accomplished military personnel. During a training exercise however, the lives of all participants are plunged into jeopardy, when drug lord Min Deng (Dahong Ni), in his desperate attempt to avenge the loss of his brother during Feng's last mission, recruits Tom Cat (Scott Adkins), and his band of mercenaries, to kill all involved.
Viewers will be quick to notice the antagonistic force, comprised of muscular militia, are all of Caucasian/European origin, while the protagonists are all Chinese. If anything, the film appears to advertise the strength and courage of Chinese forces, and it is here the film excels, much of the dialogue used in these sequences conveying empowering notions of patriotism, and despite the fact I am not Chinese, even I was impressed by how the Asian super power's military was spoken of. At the same time though, the film incidentally contradicts this with the sheer number of Chinese soldiers that fall like flies against the oppositional forces.
The occasional heroic dialogue however is usurped by the often uninteresting conversations, a number of which are quips at the expense of Xiaoyun's character. A high-ranking female in the Chinese military who commands the War Wolves, you would imagine that she demands respect. Instead, she is the subject of many sexist lines from Feng, and other men, and rather than punishing their insubordinate behavior, she appears content with their unsatisfactory conduct.
Despite the front cover of the film I purchased showing a man with a minigun, please don't be fooled into thinking, like I was, that this weapon will be used in a particularly exciting scene – believe me, it's not. Wolf Warrior has the ingredients of a great action film; however, the recipe goes disastrously wrong, the tension between Feng and Cat being very under-exaggerated, while the villains themselves, despite their bravado, prove to be nowhere near as threatening as an action fan may hope. Furthermore, the lack of depth and attention provided to many of the characters, especially the villains, prohibits the audience from connecting with them, and though the film strives to emotionally involve its viewers, these attempts feel forced and out of place.
Jing and Adkins are clearly adept martial artists, and it would have been great to view them in a film where their talents are proficiently captured – sadly, this feature does not serve as the venue for such excitement. In short, Wolf Warrior has all the hype of an action film, but none of the flavor, and though the end hints at a sequel, we can only hope that if China decides to make a franchise here, the sequels prove to be immensely more entertaining.
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