Tomes could be written about the political, social and racial dynamics of “Wolf Warrior 2,” the sequel to the 2015 Chinese action hit “Wolf Warrior,” starring martial-arts star Wu Jing (aka Jacky Wu).
Set in an unnamed African country torn by war and disease but where the Chinese have established a large presence, “WW2” — made with an international cast for an international audience — is Chinese soft power at its most unvarnished. The Africans are either helpless victims or bloodthirsty rebels, the lone Russian is a musclebound Neanderthal, and the Americans are either woefully naive or relentlessly evil, the latter thanks to a mercenary played by Frank Grillo from “The Purge” franchise. But hope springs eternal as the Chinese, through Wu Jing’s heroic character Leng Feng (a former Chinese special ops superstar) and the Chinese armed forces, are there to save the day.
Feng has to defy the odds by almost single-handedly rescuing a group of Chinese and African workers at a factory under attack by the rebels. “WW2” is at its best in the scenes of hand-to-hand combat — Wu Jing, who also directed — has an intense fighting style. The climactic showdown between Jing and Grillo kicks a hole in the screen while, earlier, an underwater brawl and a crazy car chase that is almost worthy of “The Raid: Redemption” are entertaining. (The Russo brothers, directors of “Captain America: Civil War,” reportedly consulted on some of the action scenes.)
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But there's not enough of this type of jaw-dropping action, the acting’s as stiff as a warehouse full of mannequins, the effects are sometimes iffy, and there’s the nagging feeling —as when Wu Jing returns triumphant holding a Chinese flag aloft — that the whole thing is really just a commercial for the government of China’s self-declared awesomeness.
In Mandarin and English with English subtitles
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Wolf Warrior 2
☆☆ 1/2 (out of five)
Director: Wu Jing
Cast: Wing Ju, Frank Grillo, Celina Jade
Rated: Unrated (bloody violence)
Running time: 122 min.