Leng Feng (Wu Jing) is a soldier in the Chinese People's Liberation Army, and his speciality is as a sniper, skills he shows off today when his platoon are called in to take down a heroin manufacturing den of drug lord Min Deng (Ni Dahong), who has left the building in charge of his younger brother, a volatile chap he is always having to keep in line. But time has run out for his sibling, as after the troops descend he sets off various explosive devices in order to save his own skin, if not those of his workers, and winds up taking a hostage and demanding a helicopter. However, Leng has him in his sights, and creatively shoots through the wall, killing him - and making a mortal enemy in Min...
Wolf Warrior was apparently a surprise to many of those who caught it from outside of China and Hong Kong in that they did not expect an action movie to be quite as patriotic as this, why, it was almost as bad as the American movies about the military (or military types, at least). However, if they had seen any number of Chinese action flicks from the era they would be well aware that patriotism was part and parcel of these efforts, and its presence in this was nothing new, not a novelty, though it did make star-writer-director Jing look like he was doing some industrial strength sucking up to the Chinese government. Although China by this time was embracing capitalism, it liked its propaganda.
Though whether this film's idea of propaganda was essentially Communist or whether any totalitarian society really likes bigging itself up whenever possible was a moot point, up for a debate we shall not delve into here. What was clear was that Jing had seen the similar works out of Hollywood, most blatantly Top Gun, and wished to create his own version: as those deployed military violence as a means of displaying the supposedly great aspects to the American nation, that was more or less what you had here, only China was not at war when this was made, and indeed had not been for some years. Curious, then, that its villains in this should be resolutely Western in appearance.
Scott Adkins was your man at the head of the mercenaries sent to take Leng down in revenge for killing Min's brother, in a scenario that may have you pondering, there has to be an easier way to assassinate someone than this. We have to wait a while for Adkins, a direct to DVD or streaming action leading man in the West, but a bigger star with cinema releases elsewhere in the world, to get his act together and send his men to attempt to execute Leng and anyone else who got in the way, for our hero, one of the sweatiest in movie history, had a lot of establishing to get through. We meet the Wolf Warriors as they drive their massed tanks right up to him and welcome to the fold, this after Leng has been court martialled for taking the shot, then let off so he can join the Chinese military elite.
If this is not making much sense, local audiences didn't mind too much, the novelty of seeing a military entertainment from their own country, with a popular martial arts star like Jing, very much a draw for those audiences. The weird thing was, with him and Adkins teaming up with characters pitted against one another, you would expect at least ten scenes where they threw down their guns in favour of hand to hand combat, yet that only happened once, right at the end. Mostly this fetishized weaponry in a manner that the NRA might consider "overdoing it", as not a minute went by without someone breaking out a submachine gun or similar to let rip with a hail of bullets, or so it seemed. The Kelly McGillis role was taken by Nan Yu, though she was relegated to the operations room watching events on a giant screen, but she didn't stand a chance as next to the masses of explosions or a sequence where the wolves battle actual CGI wolves apropos of nothing were where the project's heart lay. If that was enough for you, knock yourself out, but its mixture of the silly and the jingoistic demonstrated little beyond gung ho being a universal language. Music by Yoa Kian How.
Jacky Wu Jing used to be such an affable presence in Hong Kong action films. It is a shame to see him head down this jingoistic path. But judging from the response in China at least it seems that is what audiences want. Frankly I'm as ambivalent about this as I am about Top Gun.