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Chinese Blockbuster 'Wolf Warrior II' Mixes Jingoism With Hollywood Heroism

Aug 10, 2017
Originally published on August 10, 2017 5:47 pm
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There's no question what the blockbuster film in China is this summer. An action flick called "Wolf Warrior II" has taken in more than half a billion dollars in its first two weeks. That's a new box office record for China. NPR's Anthony Kuhn looks at some of the factors behind the picture's success.

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ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: The wolf warrior of the movie's title is a Chinese special forces soldier named Leng Feng. When the cops in Leng's town don't protect his home, he takes the law into his own hands and gets kicked out of the military for it. That's an unusual plotline for a Chinese movie, says Shanghai-based film critic Dong Shu.

DONG SHU: (Through interpreter) The film uses a Hollywood style of storytelling and production quality, and Chinese audiences go for this kind of thing.

KUHN: Leng gets a security job on a ship headed to Africa. Meanwhile, Chinese workers and some of Leng's friends are trapped in an unnamed war-torn African nation.

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KUHN: The Chinese military can't save them because the African country hasn't invited them in, so Leng goes in alone to save his friends and find the mercenaries who killed his former girlfriend. Again, says Dong Shu, not your average Chinese propaganda movie. In fact, he says, it's kind of reminiscent of Sylvester Stallone in the "Rambo" series.

DONG: (Through interpreter) I think what's good about this movie is that the hero's not motivated by some higher national or collective interest. His main motivation is individualistic.

KUHN: Leng Feng is played by actor Wu Jing. He also directed it. Although he's a martial artist by training, the fight scenes are not done kung fu style.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "WOLF WARRIOR II")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character, grunting).

KUHN: Leng's nemesis is played by Frank Grillo, who, like the fight choreographer "Wolf Warrior," comes from the "Captain America" franchise. In an online chat with state media, Wu Jing explicitly compares himself with Hollywood characters.

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WU JING: (Through interpreter) Why do only foreign nations get to have superheroes? In Hollywood, the hero can take on a whole army. Why can't my character take on a dozen mercenaries?

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "WOLF WARRIOR II")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character, foreign language spoken).

KUHN: In the end, the Chinese military does come to the rescue. The final scene in the movie is just a Chinese passport. The message seems to be that Chinese can now go overseas to study, invest and work, and the Chinese government will be there for them. By contrast, Leng's female American companion calls the U.S. Embassy hoping to be rescued, but there's nobody there and she just gets a recording. Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Beijing.

(SOUNDBITE OF DAMU THE FUDGEMUNK'S "PARANOID REMIX") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.