Every so often, a martial arts movie star manages to make a successful crossover from Asian cinema to global mainstream success. The names that immediately spring to mind are the likes of Jet Li, Jackie Chan, and Bruce Lee, but it has been a while since last really successful transition.

But in Wu Jing (or Jacky Wu as he is sometimes called), Chinese cinema might just have found its latest global sensation. Wu Jing is the star of China’s record-breaking Wolf Warrior 2, a massively popular film which is the highest grossing in China’s history.

Wu Jing in Wolf Warrior 2

wu jing wolf warrior 2

Having been made for a budget of just US$30 million, Wolf Warrior 2 has earned a remarkable US$870 million at the box office so far. Its success has been largely based on the patriotic sentiments instilled in the film which chimed strongly with the nationalist sentiment being pushed hard in China at the moment by the ruling Communist Party.

Wu Jing stars as Feng Leng, a Chinese Special Forces operative and all action hero. He is a former Soldier in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) who is tasked with rescuing Chinese businesspeople, citizens, and aid workers from a war-torn African country.

While the plot of the movie is fictitious, it does mirror real-life events, with Chinese troops entering Libya in 2011 and Yemen in 2015 to evacuate Chinese citizens. The timing of the movie’s release, which coincided with the much heralded 90th anniversary of the PLA may well have also played a significant role in its success, particularly given the more modest success of the original Wolf Warrior film.

Wu Jing: The Background Story

wu jing wolf warrior 2

Wu Jing was born in 1974 in Beijing and at the age of just 6 years old, was sent to train at the Beijing Wushu Academy. Coming from a family of martial artists (both his father and grandfather practised wushu), this was the path he too was destined to follow. He was still at the academy in 1995 when he was spotted by Yuen Woo-Ping, who was looking for talented martial artists to perform in the film Tai Chi 2 (aka Tai Chi Boxer).

That breakthrough role led to a number other parts in Chinese TV shows and small movies, but it was not until 2005 that he would achieve real success in Hong Kong with the role of the vicious assassin Jack in SPL: Kill Zone.

wu jing wolf warrior 2

Other big roles followed and in 2008, he made his first appearance in a Hollywood film, playing another assassin alongside Brendan Fraser and Jet Li in The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. In 2011, he played Jing Neng in the movie Shaolin, whose cast included Nicholas Tse, Andy Lau and Jackie Chan.

But it was not until 2015, when he wrote, directed, and starred in the first Wolf Warrior film, that he really established himself. It was not the first movie he had directed, that was Legendary Assassin back in 2008 alongside choreographer Nicky Li. But it was definitely the most successful and laid the foundations for the stunning success of Wolf Warrior 2.

Wu Jing’s Personal influence

wu jing wolf warrior 2

In writing and performing a tale about the challenges of trying to help others in intense and dangerous environments, Wu Jing is able to call on direct personal experience.

In 2008, the Sichuan Province of China was struck by a huge earthquake. It measured 8.0 on the Richter Scale and was felt more than a thousand miles away. It had a devastating effect on the region, leaving an estimated 69,000 people dead and 4.8 million homeless.

Wu Jing felt compelled to try and help so volunteered with the One Foundation, which was founded by Jet Li. He travelled to the region to bring essential supplies to those in need and spent time carrying out relief work in some of the most remote and mountainous regions affected.

wu jing wolf warrior 2

For all the action and martial arts that have made the Wolf Warrior films so successful, that experience can be felt through both and has no doubt influenced Wu Jing’s perspective on the world.

Now many in China and beyond are tipping him to be next Chinese actor to make it in Hollywood. He has every chance. There is a huge passion for quality action and martial arts movies in the west right now and with the success of Wolf Warrior 2 behind him, Wu Jing is a guaranteed box office star in his native China at least.

But perhaps more importantly, he has the backing of China’s Communist Party leaders. They are quickly learning the benefits of soft power to sell their vision of China. And with Wu Jing as an all-action Chinese hero, he fits that vision perfectly. And with Hollywood always keen to exploit the financial opportunities that the Chinese market offers, it appears that turning Wu Jing into a star might be something that is in the best interests of everyone.

Well Go USA Entertainment
Read more like this