The Gratuitous B-Movie Column: Wolf Warrior
The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Issue #405: Wolf Warrior
Adkins April: Week 1
Hello, everyone, and welcome once again to the internets movie review column that has never had to hire a team of mercenaries for any reason, The Gratuitous B-Movie Column, and I am your host Bryan Kristopowitz. In this issue, issue number four hundred and five, the Scott Adkins marathon, Adkins April, begins with Wolf Warrior, which came out in 2015.
Wolf Warrior, also known as Wolf Warriors, is a sort of badass action flick that also operates as deliberate propaganda for the Chinese military. Written and directed by and starring Jing Wu (or Jacky Wu), the movie is about a badass PLA soldier named Leng Feng (Jacky Wu) who, after disobeying a direct order during a spectacular raid on a major illegal drug operation, is “confined” for insubordination. Feng is okay with the confinement as he doesn’t personally believe he did anything wrong (well, seriously wrong. He knows that he did disobey his superiors in the field). He saved one of his comrades who was in harm’s way, held hostage by a batshit insane thug. Feng is a trained sniper, he had a shot, he had to take it. In the midst of serving his confinement sentence, Feng is visited by Long Xiaoyun (Nan Yu), the commander of the Wolves, a super PLA Special Forces outfit that’s always looking for new recruits. If Feng agrees to become a member of the Wolves team, his confinement will be suspended. So Feng agrees to become a Wolves member, and is let out of prison.
While all of that is going on, a major police operation “somewhere in Asia” is initiated to arrest Min Deng (Dahong Ni), a scumbag international drug runner and super criminal who likes to smoke cigars and paint in his spare time. The operation goes off without a hitch until a boat filled with high priced Western mercenaries shows up and kills every cop in sight. Led by Tomcat (Scott Adkins, listed in the credits as Scott Edward Adkins for some reason), the mercs work for Deng and do his bidding because Deng has the money to pay them and Westerners are all money grubbing garbage. We find out that the crazy thug Feng killed was Deng’s brother and that now Deng wants revenge. Deng then enlists Tomcat and his mercenary team to find Feng and kill him.
The scene then shifts to a major war games exercise being held by the PLA where we see Feng, in his new Wolves unit, taking on some other PLA unit that isn’t Special Forces but, I guess, is close to being Special Forces. I’m not really sure about that. I’m also not entirely sure what the point of the war games exercise is beyond, maybe, the Wolves being a target of the other unit because that other unit really wants the Wolves to lose. Or something like that.
So then we see a bunch of war games stuff alongside funny fellow soldier/comrade banter mixed in with super serious scenes in a computer room where various PLA officers watch their men, give orders, watch some more, and vaguely explain what’s going on. In the middle of the exercise, the Wolves are attacked by a pack of “actual” wolves to help foreshadow the eventual final fight between Feng and Tomcat (because that was always going to happen). The Wolves have to use their bayonets on the vicious animals as they don’t have live ammunition.
So while all of that is going on, Tomcat and his mercenary team find out where Feng is, come up with a plan of attack, and then attack. The Wolves and the other PLA soldiers are forced to fall back, but because they’re resourceful and Chinese they find a way to fight back, especially Feng, who still wants to do everything he can to save his comrades. And while all of that is going on, the PLA commanders come up with a plan to help the Wolves and the other PLA members to fight the foreign mercenaries. It’s their goddamn patriotic duty.
Now, to evil Westerners who aren’t familiar with Chinese/Asian cinema, Wolf Warrior probably isn’t going to make much sense. I’m vaguely familiar with it, so I sort of understood some of the “weird” stuff on display. But only some of it. A good chunk of the movie was simply beyond my comprehension. Most of that has to do with the dialogue, especially the dialogue of the Western mercenaries, which is stilted and, at times, ridiculous. You can tell, too, that the “Western” actors portraying the mercenaries know that the dialogue is ridiculous but since they’re actors and respect the words and all that they say the words, sometimes with conviction. As for the story, there are things in it you’ll recognize if you’ve seen multiple war movies in your life (soldier buddies joshing one another in the field, mild homophobia that’s all in good fun, talk of family back home that lets you know someone is going to die in the field without seeing his family again, etc.), but then there are things that you won’t. For instance, almost every scene involving the PLA commanders is incomprehensible because most of these commanders have zero personality and just give out stern faced orders. Some of them might be actual combat veterans with war experience, but then we keep hearing about how “exercises are combat,” which, I guess, means that war games are actually war. So who are these people?
The action scenes are generally good. The raid on the drug dealers involving Feng and his sniper rifle is awesome, and the big hooha boat attack involving Tomcat and his mercenary team is thrilling (we get a rocket launcher attack and a minigun slaughter, including a quick scene where a cop is shot in the face, at point blank range, with that minigun). The war games sequences are decent, although I wish the movie explained that the soldiers participating in the games didn’t have live ammunition beforehand. We see muzzle flashes and pyrotechnic explosions in the forest and in the field but we don’t know that they’re meant to be “fake” until they actually happen. When the mercenaries ambush the Wolves and the other PLA members the action shifts between good stuff and just okay stuff. The best way to explain it is when we know what’s going on the action works. When we don’t know what the hell is going on, then the action is problematic. Things do explode, though, and people do get shot, so at least there are things to look at, even if you’re not quite sure what the hell is really going on.
Jing Wu/Jacky Wu does a decent job as Leng Feng. He knows how to fight, has good movement, and he looks credible as a badass soldier. He also doesn’t look ridiculous in his sniper sequences. Wu also isn’t a bad actor in general as he has an interesting presence (you want to watch him). He doesn’t really have any chemistry with Nan Yu, which is sad since they’re supposed to have chemistry and a “thing” for one another, but he does have good adversarial chemistry with Adkins. As a director, Wu clearly has an eye for action and knows how to stage and shoot action sequences. The “slow” parts of the story, though, aren’t all that interesting. Wu does his best to cover them, give them flair and whatnot, but there’s no saving most of them. Overall, good job Jing Wu/Jacky Wu.
Adkins, or Scott Edward Adkins (why the hell is he listed as that in the credits?), is good as Tomcat, the badass ex-Navy SEAL turned high paid Western mercenary. He knows how to make himself look evil, and he has a certain sneer that helps hammer home the point that he’s the bad guy. His British/Australian accent makes no sense, but then he’s the bad guy and a Westerner (are they all alike? I don’t know). Adkins gets through the horrendous dialogue like the pro that he is, and, as always, he looks outstanding in the action scenes. His final fight with Wu, while not a cinematic classic, is worth watching and shows just how good he is when beating the crap out of someone. I also want to point out how well he yells out “Bucko!” It’s a little moment you won’t forget.
No one else really stands out. Nan Yu doesn’t express herself enough, but, out of all of the PLA commanders, she’s the only one who is allowed to sort of have a personality. Some of the Wolves are allowed to have personalities and little moments, but you won’t remember their names. As for the Western mercenaries, we spend no real time with them so they’re just bad guys. Adkins has some personality and an actual name, but no one else does (I mean, the mercenaries have names but I don’t remember any of them saying what their names were).
Now, the whole propaganda aspect of the story may annoy/put off some viewers because it isn’t something evil Westerners are used to, at least in the sense that the West is the enemy as opposed to non-Westerners. The propaganda is also pretty blatant, too (there’s very little in the movie that one could call subtle). The one commander’s speech towards the end is a fine example, as are the red patches the PLA soldiers wear that say, in English, “I fight for China.” And pay attention to that patch. It figures into the ending in a surprising way.
What’s the deal with calling Chinese soldiers boy scouts? This is a huge issue in the movie. Anyone out there know why “boy scouts” is a slur?
All in all, Wolf Warrior is worth checking out. It’s a different kind of action flick. The action is the main draw and is decent. The rest of the movie is hit and miss and kind of weird, at least it will be to evil Western audiences. According to the internets, a Wolf Warrior sequel is in the works. Who will be the evil Westerner in that movie? I can’t wait to find out.
See Wolf Warrior. See it, see it, see it.
So what do we have here?
Dead bodies: At least 30.
Explosions: Several, both real and “fake,” because of the whole war games thing.
Doobage: A pretty cool opening logo, sniper hooey, exploding room, serious grenade hooey, a wicked head shot through concrete, bloody arm removal via sniper shot, rocket launcher hooey, mini gun hooey, exploding cop cars in slow motion, mini gun to the face, a funeral, briefcases full of American money a drinking scheme, multiple flashbacks, a helicopter training scheme, tank gun to the face, a mild homophobic joke, weaponizing a helicopter, a military convoy, paratrooper stuff, a satellite, a CGI wolf pack attack, bayonet attack, wolf impalement, more grenade hooey, some major kung fu, a chopper chase, a wild flip, exploding truck, a disabled chopper, graphite powder hooey, a slow, sad march in slow motion through the forest, live ammo, dead body removal, a fiercely patriotic speech, trip wire hooey, exploding midair grenade, a mine field, exploding forest, more sniper hooey, tree shooting, a wicked sniper trick, a nasty point blank shot to the head, knife through the wrist, throat slashing, a brief knife fight, grenade down the back of a shirt, more grenade booby-traps, cell phone destruction, mine disarming, a weird, up close shootout, lots of handgun reloading, another knife fight, miscommunication, major leg stabbing, a wicked jump kick, knife through the throat, drug into the throat, cigar smoking, getting a medal for some reason, and an exploding rock.
Kim Richards?: None.
Gratuitous: Opening logos in Chinese that I don’t understand, a surveillance drone, Chinese military propaganda, evil Western mercenaries, Scott Adkins, Scott Adkins as Scott Edward Adkins for some reason, face time, confinement, talk of “Dutch courage,” a speech about how a pack of wolves can take down any animal, mild misogyny that leads to a hilarious practical joke, CGI animation, a wrist communicator, endless discussions about tactical maneuvers, a CGI wolf pack attack, artificial rain, red arm patches that say “I fight for China,” playing possum, discussion of whether or not the female commander has a boyfriend, and an exploding rock that says “The Chinese are boy scouts.”
Best lines: “Attack with frontal assault!,” “Why did you fucking shoot me again?,” “A Chinese guy?,” “When they meet me they will know what they’re up against,” “Ar!,” “I don’t like you,” “We are the fucking best!,” “Be humble!,” “I’m Shi Rubberneck, not Shit Rubberneck!,” “A woman is a broad. Am I wrong?,” “The game has just begun,” “The wolf never loses!,” “Exercises are actual combats,” “Every wolf warrior wants a wife but there aren’t enough girls!,” “Gentlemen, the show is about to begin,” “That was interesting,” “Fire suppression!,” “Change position. Move to high ground,” “Are you kicking legs with me?,” “You want to die for your country?,” and “I’ll be more handsome when I get older.”
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Things to Watch Out For This Week
–Phantasm Boxed Set: The fine folks at Well Go USA are behind this boxed set release, and based on everything I’ve read about it the set sounds awesome. You get all five Phantasm movies and a sixth disc full of special features, including a documentary that’s apparently only been seen as part of Region 2 releases. There are also new special features, including a commentary on Lord of the Dead with director Don Coscarelli, something that wasn’t on the old Anchor Bay disc. There’s also a book of some sort. I believe that this is only available in Blu-ray, so expect the price to be fairly substantial. It seems worth it, though. All five flicks, new special features, and a book. What Phantasm nerd/”phan” wouldn’t want something like that?
–War on Everyone: This action comedy looks both insane and actually unfunny, unlike the recent CHIPS reboot thing that Michael Pena participated in. The movie received a very limited theatrical release in early 2016, and according to Wikipedia received a wideish release in Europe. Has anyone out there seen this? Is it actually funny? I mean, the great Paul Reiser is in it. That should count for something, right?
–Bubba the Redneck Werewolf: Yes, the title of this low budget horror comedy is ridiculous. The trailer is ridiculous, too. And the premise? Absolutely. But that shouldn’t prevent you from giving it a shot. I definitely want to see this. Does the actual movie live up to the premise or the trailer? Do we have a second potential low budget werewolf horror comedy franchise on our hands? I can’t wait to find out.
–Chupacabra Territory: Okay, so this low budget found footage deal, originally known as Lair of the Beast, is likely going to be one of those deals that’s either watchable or just horrendous. I’m hoping that it’s watchable, because the world clearly doesn’t need another terrible low budget found footage movie. I would like to know why the title was changed. Sure, Lair of the Beast is kind of generic, but Chupacabra Territory makes it sound “cheesy” (awesome, but, yeah, “cheesy”). Is that what the distributors intend?
–Monster Trucks: I missed this movie when it was in theatres, but then most people missed it because it looks ridiculous (well, I’m guessing that’s why. It’s either that or not enough people knew about it when it came out). I should have made an effort to see it because, while it does look ridiculous it also looks kind of fun. What’s wrong with that? Anyone out there see this? Was it actually fun? Does it deserve its “bad” reputation?
–What the heck is going on with The Expendables 4?: When it was announced that The Expendables 4 was happening, action movie and franchise nerds rejoiced because, well, we were getting another The Expendables. We didn’t know who was coming back, who was involved, the story, the director, but we knew there was going to be a part 4. Then, last week, we found out that franchise star Sylvester Stallone was leaving the movie due to creative differences with Avi Lerner of Millennium Pictures. And then Ahnold Schwarzenegger said that if Stallone wasn’t involved he wouldn’t be involved, either. And then we heard that Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Wesley Snipes, and several other franchise participants wouldn’t do the movie without Stallone. The proposed movie was basically dead. But then Stallone told TMZ that he was still interested in doing a part 4, and that all he needed was “roadblocks” removed in order to make it happen. So what the heck is going on here?
I don’t have any inside info on this, but my guess is Stallone is just going through the usual “creative differences” whatever with Lerner and the other producers and that, eventually, we will get a part 4. Lerner, I believe, even said that this kind of thing happened on the other movies in the franchise and that, in the end, everyone came together to make the next one because whatever issues that existed were worked out. There’s no reason for me to believe that that won’t happen again. I would like to know, though, what “roadblocks” are keeping Stallone from doing the movie. We know from this article that Stallone is butting heads with Lerner over the director and the visual effects company (Lerner has a company that he wants to use, but Stallone doesn’t want that company involved for whatever reason).
But are there other issues that we haven’t heard about?
I’m hoping that, in the end, part 4 happens. It’s set to be the last one, the end, but hopefully that isn’t the case, either. This franchise could go on, in some form, forever because there are always bad guys out there to destroy. And there are still plenty of action heroes out there that would kick ass in a new Expendables adventure, new guys and old guys.
Who else wants to see a fourth The Expendables?
–Will there be a Phantasm 6?: Maybe? According to various sources, like Bloody Disgusting and Dread Central, Phantasm creator Don Coscarelli hints in the book that’s part of the Phantasm boxed set that a sixth movie is a real possibility. It probably won’t include any of the original cast, but then who knows? Angus Scrimm is gone, obviously, but will we see Reggie again? Reggie may have died in Ravager, but Bannister is still alive, as are A. Michael Baldwin and Bill Thornbury. Why couldn’t they show up in a part six, even if it’s just a cameo situation?
And who’s to say that a part 6 won’t be a reboot/remake with a whole new cast and story? It could happen.
Oh, man, a part 6? Why the heck not?
Next Issue: Adkins April continues with Hard Target 2!
B-movies rule. Always remember that.
Jing Wu/Jacky Wu– Leng Feng
Scott Adkins (as Scott Edward Adkins)– Tomcat
Nan Yu– Long Xiaoyun
Dahong Ni– Min Deng
Zhu Xiao– Wu Ji
(see the rest of the cast here)
Directed by Jing Wu/Jacky Wu
Screenplay by Qun Dong, Yan Gao, Yi Liu, and Jing Wu
Distributed by Well Go USA Entertainment, Chunqiu Time Co., and Easternlight Films
Runtime– 90 minutes
Buy it here