I watch a lot of movies in the theater, but it’s a very rare occasion that I’m the only one at a screening. Even at the most obscure, most off-time, and most likely terrible movies, there is usually at least one other person in attendance. But the theater was empty when I went to see Wolf Warrior 2, and that’s an even bigger crime than there being non-empty screenings of Blade Runner 2049, It, and Kingsman: The Golden Circle.
Leng Feng (Jing Wu, who also wrote and directed the film) was a member of the elite Wolf Warrior squadron of the Chinese army, but he was stripped of his rank and thrown in jail after killing a man who was taking way too much pleasure in evicting the family of a fallen comrade. And while he was locked up, Leng received word that his fiancée had been assassinated by mercenaries. Now, he travels the globe looking for the men who killed her, with an unusual bullet as his only clue.
One day, his travels bring him to Africa, where he’s visiting his godson. Civil war breaks out, and the rebels have captured strategic targets of particular interest to the Chinese, including a hospital with a doctor working on a cure for a deadly epidemic and a factory where his godson’s mother works. The rebels have hired ruthless mercenaries, led by a guy named Big Daddy (Frank Grillo), to do their dirty work. The U.S. Marines have already fled, and the Chinese military wants to go in, but the U.N. won’t permit it without incontrovertible evidence that Chinese citizens are being slaughtered. Their only hope is for one man to go in alone, and Leng is that man.
The script for this movie must have been written in Chinese because the English language cannot adequately describe how unbelievably ridiculous the movie is. It’s awful in just about every technical way that a movie can be. The CGI is bad, the acting is terrible, and the overacting is even worse. It’s dripping with anti-American propaganda, while absolutely gushing with pro-Chinese (and in that regard, the last scene of the film truly takes the cake). The mercenaries are almost like characters in a cartoon or video game, with one in particular (Bear, played by Oleg Prudius) being nothing short of the real-life version of Zangief from the Street Fighter series. And the hero, Leng, is like Rambo, John McClane, Martin Riggs from Lethal Weapon, and “Maverick” Pete Mitchell from Top Gun (complete with shirtless soccer scene) all rolled into one.
But despite all of these faults, and even because of some of them, Wolf Warrior 2 is pure joy to watch. It’s over two hours long, and while it’s not all action, there’s not a second of boredom to be found anywhere in the film. It opens with Leng single-handedly thwarting a pirate attack on a ship, and it accelerates from there. There’s nothing he can’t do, from catching a rocket fired at him, to making an instantaneous recovery from an incurable disease, to bouncing back from countless attacks that would have incapacitated a lesser man. If you’re not into action movies, or if you can’t enjoy movies that are just one glaringly obvious flaw after another, then this may not be the one for you. But if you can get into the world this film puts you in and just go with all the amazing insanity it throws at you, then Wolf Warrior 2 is one that you need to see.