WOLF WARRIOR: Not Enough Scott Adkins, Too Much Weird Chinese Patriotism

by Ed Travis

Have you ever realized that what your life was really missing was a Chinese answer to Rambo? Have you craved a big screen action hero that will sweat enough gallons to put The Rock’s character from the Fast & Furious movies to shame? Would you be disappointed if a film called Wolf Warrior didn’t have a little bit of wolf punching in it?

If so, then Wolf Warrior is totally your steez.

While I’ve personally been largely unfamiliar with the work of Chinese cinema star Wu Jing, here he wears many hats as director, star, producer, and even writer. It’s the Wu Jing show, with the full backing of the Chinese film industry behind him. Okay I don’t really know who backed him, but Wolf Warrior offers up a narrative of Chinese military superiority that really makes you realize what it must be like for Non-Americans to watch movies all about our superiority and exceptionalism.

But I digress.

Jing plays Leng Feng, a soldier so noble that he’s willing to disobey a direct order if it means certain victory. But when he gets in trouble for pulling the trigger and killing a hostage taker, he’s reassigned. But somehow amidst all this, he’s recruited into an elite branch of the Chinese special forces known as the Wolf Warriors. Unfortunately, the older brother of the killed hostage taker is the single hardest criminal badass in all of China, and he’s got an army of Western mercenaries at his disposal… the leader of which is none other than Scott Adkins. It’ll be the Wolf Warriors, armed with the nobility that comes from serving your country, against the mercenaries, in the fight solely for money and presumably to cause embarrassment to the Chinese military.

It might be apparent by now that I wasn’t able to take this film particularly seriously, and wasn’t ultimately the biggest fan. But while that is true, there is some fun to be had here. The thing you most want when pressing play on Wolf Warrior is a solid showdown between Adkins and Jing, and they do have a pretty mean final brawl, complete with a LOT of stabbing. Which leads me to another surprising element of Wolf Warrior, which is that… while clearly a very pro-Chinese film made within their overly sanitized system, this movie has hard R levels of violence. Limbs are blown off, heads splatter, bones crunch. This is presumably done in the name of 3D, as the film was originally intended for 3D viewing and many of the effects and visual gags are rendered inert when viewed in 2D. I generally vastly prefer 2D experiences, but here it seems like many of the effects-heavy shots, such as Scott Adkins firing a rocket launcher towards the viewers, look painfully computerized, lacking the punch that perhaps the 3D experience might have offered.

Aside from that, there are some fun set pieces, too. When the lead villain is rescued from capture by his elite mercenary army, there’s a massive siege with rockets and explosions everywhere. In the coolest element of the entire film, said elderly villain stands perfectly still, smoking a cigar, calm and confident throughout. It’s a nice moment of badass subtlety in a movie lacking that virtue in almost every other facet. Oh, and there’s also a scene just filled with actual wolf punching. Yes, the Wolf Warriors fight a pack of real wolves. Well, if by real I mean poorly rendered CGI wolves. But you get the idea. The Chinese army is better than all other armies, better than you or I, and also better than wolves.

Unfortunately those assorted highlights and set pieces don’t add up to a film that is all too compelling or even all that watchable in the end. There’s way too little Scott Adkins for my money. Sure, it isn’t his movie per se, but he’s given so very little to do. It doesn’t help the film any that the subtitles are egregiously erroneous throughout the film, often sounding like literal translations were used. The subtitles fly past at a rapid clip and make so little sense that much of the proceedings are lost on non-Chinese speakers. This is obviously only an issue for us Westerners who are checking the film out in our market as the original Chinese audience would have had no such problem. But between the rampant jingoism and military superiority narrative, the rough effects work, the frequent silliness, the infrequent Adkins appearances, and the poor subtitle experience, I’ll stick with John J. Rambo as my go-to elite soldier of choice.

The Package

As mentioned, the visual effects which were originally intended for 3D are poorly rendered and done no favors for the high definition experience. Other sequences fair much better and the film is capable of looking quite slick. Jing certainly had enough roles on the film to make this decidedly his own, but there’s just so much lost in translation here with subtitles that are comical at best, and incomprehensible at worst. The disc features no bonus features to speak of, so only major Wu Jing fans or Scott Adkins fans will likely want to own this release. Fortunately there are a whole lot of those fans around the world.

And I’m Out

Wolf Warrior hits Blu-ray on September 1st, 2015 from Well Go USA

You can enter to win one of 3 copies in our Wolf Warrior Blu-ray giveaway!

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