I watched this military action movie with the guys during our latest Weekend of Trash as we're all Scott Adkins fans as well as fans of the genre. I'd been sent a screener for it to review though, so rather than including my brief thoughts as part of my Weekend of Trash write-up I'm giving it a proper review. Plus it was better than expected so deserves more time spent over it too.
Wolf Warrior opens with an intense military face off against a drug cartel. One of the chief bad guys takes a hostage, leading to a stand off, so rogue sniper Leng Feng (Wu Jing) takes it upon himself to use a risky tactic to bring the man down. In doing so, he gets in a bit of trouble with his superiors who damn his actions, but see his talents and enrol him in the Wolf Warrior squad – the special forces of the special forces. However, the drug cartel are less generous to Feng. You see, the man he killed was the brother of their head honcho, so the villain hires a crack team of mercenaries led by Tom Cat (Scott Adkins) to get revenge. Their strike comes during a military exercise, leaving Feng and his squad surrounded by the enemy out in the wilderness.
All three of us really enjoyed this. Action packed from start to finish and gleefully over the top, it had the feel of an 80's action movie. Within the opening 10-15 minutes you're treated to the tense sniper standoff mentioned earlier, then a ridiculously violent attack on the troops sent to arrest the drug baron at his home. It was this sequence that really got us on board and set the tone for the film. Bringing out uzi's and rocket launchers to take out a handful of soldiers, the bullets cloud the screen and a mixture of live and CGI squibs splatter paint it red, regularly joined by unnecessary explosions in the cars and houses around them.
The presentation is really slick too. It was particularly noticeable after the low budget trash we'd been watching all weekend, but the production values are high and the camera work and editing is excitingly fast and fluid without getting messy or confusing. POV Go Pro type cameras are used at times too, which is a nice touch, particularly in the fast paced opening military operation. Some CGI is used which isn't quite as effective though. The CGI blood, which has always been a bugbear of mine, is a bit dodgy, largely only when it's used for the gorier moments (of which there are a few). There's a bizarre sequence when three of the troops are attacked by a pack of wolves which has some slightly suspect CGI too.
When the action is this thrilling, I don't let little things like that bother me though. With Jing (Kill Zone/SPL) and Adkins (Ninja) in leading roles, you know there's going to be some great martial arts on display too. Due to the military focus, there's much more gunplay than hand to hand combat, but the two actors do get a couple of chances to show off their skills, most notably in a fight against each other at the end.
All this praise I'm heaping on the film doesn't mean it's perfect though. It has one major problem, in that the film is clearly being used as an advert for the Chinese military and a display of strength to other countries. A lot of big hardware comes out to show how badass the country can be and the big blunt patriotism is hard to swallow at times.
I've come to expect this type of aggressive flag waving from Chinese blockbusters though, so I wasn't surprised and just kind of laughed it off for the most part. The writing is very predictable too (you even have the classic “look here's my wife and kids” scene just before a soldier is killed off) and it can get a bit sentimental at times. However, because the film feels so much like a classic 80's action blockbuster, cheesy aspects like this are part of the charm in a way and the film truly delivers on the action front, which is what matters. So, if you don't take it too seriously and have a taste for over the top explosive mayhem, you're in for a treat.
Wolf Warrior is out on 12th October on DVD in the UK, released by Metrodome. I got sent a watermarked screener so can't comment on the picture or sound quality and no features were included.