Pinned down, Leng Feng has a blade at his throat. Plus, he’s just recovered from an incurable African virus. Fear not: China’s “Warrior Wolf” Leng always wins out, guns blazing, fists flying.
Pinned down, Leng Feng has a blade at his throat. Plus, he’s just recovered from an incurable African virus. Fear not: China’s “Warrior Wolf” Leng always wins out, guns blazing, fists flying. China’s hit film “Wolf Warrior 2” saved the surprise for investors. Shares of distributors such as Beijing Jingxi Culture & Tourism Co. have soared as the 200 million yuan ($30 million) action fest smashed past better-known franchises like “Fast and Furious” and previous record holder “The Mermaid” to set a new all-time high for ticket sales in China. As of Tuesday, the film grossed more than 3.5 billion yuan in 13 days, according to movie database Maoyan. And it’s still packing in moviegoers. The hit now accounts for more than 60 percent of show times for all films nationwide, according to Maoyan. Directed by and starring martial artist Wu Jing, the film tells the story of “Wolf Warrior” Leng, a renegade officer in China’s special operations force. His mission is to evacuate hundreds of Chinese nationals from a war-torn country in Africa, almost single-handedly. His nemesis: “Big Daddy,” the highest-paid mercenary in Europe.
“Wolf Warrior 2” offers the strongest evidence yet that with enough action, homegrown movies can boost the market, outdrawing the Hollywood hits thought to be a key to reviving China’s slumping box-office sales. The official Xinhua News Agency added to the film’s positive press, saying it “vividly reflects the rise of China’s overall national strength” and “met Chinese nationals’ need for a superhero of their own.” “War and action — the film filled a gap in China’s box office, which hasn’t seen such a genre film released for quite some time,” said James Li, co-founder at Beijing-based film consultancy Fanink Research. “Demand for quality movies is still growing in China.”
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Timing also helped, according to Li. The summer peak season is typically reserved for domestic titles. Director Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk,” which is drawing North American movie-goers, won’t be released in China until September. “I like the film for its righteousness, and the real and breathtaking fighting scenes,” Yao Jian, a physical trainer, said outside a theater in downtown Shanghai. “It kind of accomplishes a dream that every man has, and it is a story that reflects China’s rise.”
Such optimism contrasts with a series of disappointments. Local fare and Hollywood blockbusters alike had failed to boost growth in the world’s second-largest film market.
Dearth of Hits
China’s box-office revenue fell 5 percent in the first half of the year, with foreign films claiming 61 percent of ticket sales, up from the average 50 percent in previous years, according to consultancy EntGroup. More worrying, box office for domestic films slumped 20 percent in the period, UBS Group AG analyst Zhijing Liu estimates. “Wolf Warrior 2” has reversed that trend, wiping away investor gloom along with it. Beijing Jingxi shares have jumped 35 percent since the film opened, erasing a slump that began last fall.
“Combining Hollywood story-telling technique with a story that reflects mainstream values in China,” made the film successful, Beijing Jingxi Chairman Song Ge said in a written reply to questions from Bloomberg.
The two-hour marathon of explosions, gunfights, tank battles and hand-to-hand combat opens with Leng taking on rivals in an underwater fistfight. To create some of this action, Wu and Beijing Jingxi brought in talent from overseas including Sam Hargrave, stunt coordinator of “Captain America: Civil War,” and Park Road Post Production, the sound specialist behind such hits as “The Hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings.”
“The film reminds me of some of the old-fashioned Hollywood blockbusters,” said Brian Wang, a Shanghai-based Chinese-American entrepreneur. “I can see it is inspired by ‘Rambo: First Blood.’ This is a moment for China to say, ‘We can make movies as good as Hollywood.’” Heartened by the success of “Wolf Warrior 2,” Beijing Jingxi is producing a new trilogy, “Feng Shen,” adapted from an ancient Chinese mythological novel “The Investiture of the Gods.” The company expects to spend about 3 billion yuan on the sequel and to sign on producer Barrie M. Osborne of “Lord of the Rings” fame.