HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Wolf Warrior
HTS Overall Score:69
There was a point where Jacky Wu (Wu Jing) was poised to be the next great Hong Kong action star, taking the torch from the aging Donnie Yen. The fight scene between himself and Yen in “Sha Po Lang” (titled “Kill Zone” in the U.S.) was nothing short of jaw dropping. Soon enough he was making a name for himself in Hong Kong for being of the better up and coming martial artists out there. I remember thinking that he lacked some of the charisma needed to become a front liner in the market, but after a few years he basically fell off the map (at least in the majors). In 2008 he stuck out on his own with a directorial debut of “Legendary Assassins”, which despite critical review, was a surprisingly decent first try. Fast forward 7 years and “Wolf Warriors” comes into the picture. I got a suspicion about the political leanings when I saw Jackie Wu standing in in front of the Chinese flag (as this is a mainland production rather than a Hong Kong production), but wasn’t prepared for the 90 minute advertisement for the Chinese military that we have before us.
Jacky Wu plays Leng Feng, a Special Forces sniper in the Chinese PLA, is taken off active duty after disobeying a director order and taking out a drug dealer who was holding one of his minion’s hostage. Transferred to the “wolf” squadron, where he becomes one of the elite of the elite. Becoming one with his new unit takes some work, but Leng Feng soon becomes a valued member of the unit, until a group of foreign mercenaries funded by the terrorist brother of the drug dealer he killed earlier, attacks their training and sends his entire unit into chaos. Furious with righteous indignation over the loss of Life, the PLA dramatically slaps “I Fight for Chine” patches (in English) on their arms and pursues the mercenaries to the Chinese border.
Unbeknownst to Leng Feng and the rest of his unit, this whole thing was a diversion to get them to follow the mercs into the mine field riddled jungle where they can pick off the outliers one by one and get to their true target, Feng himself. This special foreign unit is headed by Tomcat (Scott Adkins), and as you can guess from the character, is setting up the rest of the movie for a showdown between the honorable Leng Feng and the nefarious merc. Blood, chaos and destruction ensue for the latter 45 minutes of the film until we get to the inevitable face to face with Tomcat.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=52442[/img]To say that “Wolf Warrior” is a walking, talking commercial for the Chinese army is an understatement. I don’t think a 10 minute period goes by where you don’t see Feng do something heroic for China, or have characters spout lines like “Those who threaten China’s resolve will have no place to hide”!, or “You’re not the smartest soldier in the world, but you’re certainly the bravest”. Pretty much EVERY major action set piece shows Jacky Wu’s character disobeying some direct order to save a superior officer (we actually have a scene where dozens of “wolves” are making suicide runs to pick up their fallen commander on the battlefield, steadfastly dying in their efforts as emotional musical queues play in the background), or fighting “for the glory of China”. As I said before, they have Chinese flag patches that say (in English of all things) “I Fight for ChinA”, and you see them slapping them on their uniforms with this iron jawed resolve with that same emotional swelling of music in the background. I understand there is always a bit of “hoo ra!” in every military unit, I came from a family who served and understand it completely. However, there comes a point where it’s less pride and patriotism, and just becomes a propaganda piece, and that’s where “Wolf Warrior” falls.
Now, even though we’ve got a ton of maninland China propaganda in the film, you’d hope that the action would more than make up for that deficiency. Unfortunately, a movie that stars two incredible martial artists and sports the tag line “Breathtaking martial arts!” on the front cover shouldn’t be as boring as “Wolf Warrior” is. Besides a battle in the center of the movie as well as the inevitable confrontation between Adkins and Wu, there isn’t a whole lot. The rest of the movie is standard run and gun military shootouts with the occasional knife encounter. Even the end battle between Adkins and Wu is decidedly subpar. Adkins’ main advantage is the incredible legs that he has on him, and Wu himself is an incredibly versatile martial artist. In hindsight I would have rather had Wu take back seat from directing and choreographing as he does much better under the guidance of someone else. Adkins is dispatched in one of the worst ways possible and Wu’s acrobatics are heavily muted. The two spent most of the conflict shooting at each other over a hilltop before finally breaking out the knives and going to town. Too little, too late I guess.
I’ve noticed an unsettling turn for Chinese martial arts/action movies lately. Hong Kong used to be the HUB for just about everything coming out of there, and Jacky Wu himself cut his teeth in Hong Kong cinema. However, I’ve noticed that Mainland China is now starting to churn out all these action movies with old Hong Kong stars and the end result is waaaaaaaaaaaaay too preachy (as you would guess knowing the Chinese government). The fun and charm of the Chinese action movies is severely lacking, and even though there is more than enough action scenes, they seem flat and boring in comparison to the old Hong Kong films. My only hope is that mainland China realizes that the rest of the world doesn’t want to see a propaganda film, and that you can honor your military without resorting to heavy jingoism and over the top speeches.
Not Rated by the MPAA
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=52450[/img]While the movie isn’t that great, the 2.40:1 AVC encoded Blu-ray disc certainly looks amazing. Colors stray towards that grey with a hint of blue grading that is so prevalent in Asian films, with a sprinkling of other colors smattered in there. Fine detail is excellent, as you can see every piece of debris, sweat and grime on the “wolves” faces and every drop of blood on their pristine PLA uniforms. Long shots sometimes show a teensy bit of softness, but not very often, rendering some fantastic looking shots of the Chinese jungle. Blacks are deep and inky, with no signs of crush of washed out levels. I have no problem with the disc encoding itself, for the most part, with only some minor banding causing any noticeable issues.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=52458[/img]Presented in its original Mandarin dialect, “Wolf Warrior” comes to Blu-ray with both a DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless audio track as well as a 2.0 Dolby Digital track for night listening. Being an action movie, “Wolf Warrior” has a very aggressive mix that is filled with enough explosions, gunfire and LFE moments to choke a horse. Even with all that action, I noticed the LFE channel was impressive, but not overly aggressive or even THAT powerful to begin with. The gunshots have some solid weight to them but don’t sound like cannons, and the surrounds are constantly active with gunfire and the rustling of the forest around the soldiers. The dialog is crisp and clean, although I detected a few moments where it felt a bit thin and weightless. A good track, just not one that will be used for “Transformers” style demo parties.
“Wolf Warrior” isn’t a debacle, but it certainly comes close, with some ridiculously heavy handed attempts at national pride and underwhelming direction. Jacky Wu is an incredibly talented martial artist, but his directorial skills have proven pretty lackluster lately. Under a more talented director and free from the meddling that most certainly was present from the government, “Wolf Warrior” might have turned out differently, but as it stands, I can’t recommend the film. The audio and the video are good to great, but the lack of extras and the afore mentioned propaganda aspect of the film unfortunately leaves me with no choice but to recommend you skip this one.
Starring: Jacky Wu, Scott Adkins
Directed by: Jacky Wu
Written by: Jacky Wu
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: Mandarin: DTS-HD MA 5.1, DD 2.0
Studio: Well Go USA
Runtime: 90 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: September 1st, 2015
Buy Wolf Warrior On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Skip It
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