BEIJING (Reuters) - China's highest-grossing film, Wolf Warrior 2, has pulled in more than 4 billion yuan (S$819.43 million) at the box office since its release last month, and Hollywood is sitting up and taking notice.
The movie, directed and starring martial artist Wu Jing, tells of a former Chinese special forces soldier single-handedly evacuating Chinese citizens besieged by Western mercenaries in Africa.
"Like Sylvester Stallone before him, and John Wayne before Stallone, star Wu Jing has successfully exploited the crowd-pleasing potential of enhancing militaristic action-adventure heroics with a heavy dose of flag-waving patriotism," Hollywood trade paper Variety said in a report about the film.
"The big difference here, of course, is that the flag waved by Wu and others in this shoot-'em-up extravaganza is that of the People's Republic of China, and Wu's heroic Leng Feng is not a Green Beret, but rather a once and future member of his country's elite Wolf Warriors special ops unit."
Italian-American actor, Frank Grillo, plays a mercenary in the movie. "I've got about 15 calls from Hollywood studio people, casting people and producers, asking, 'Can Wu Jing speak English?'" Grillo is quoted as telling Xinhua News Agency. "Wu Jing can do anything. He's breathing very thin air right now and is in a room with very few other people."
Analysts say the film may also inspire China to make more patriotic films, as Beijing sends more of its nationals abroad to undertake construction as part of its "Belt and Road" initiative.
"Chinese audiences love to see films that resonate with their own recognition of national identity and this movie is more advanced in quality, theme and topicality," said independent film critic Dong Shu. "For sure making similar movies will be a new direction."
China's previous highest-grossing film was the 2016 comedy The Mermaid, which earned 3.39 billion yuan. Shares in Beijing Jingxi Culture & Tourism Co., a distributor of Wolf Warrior 2 in China, have soared 40 per cent since the movie's launch.
The popularity of the film has bucked slowing growth in the Chinese film market, which only grew 3.73 per cent last year. Senior data analyst Wu Jian with Beijing Weiying Technology Co said he had initially predicted that the movie would make 800 million yuan to 1.5 billion yuan.
"We were quite pessimistic about this year's box-office outlook before this movie, expecting even a net decline from last year," he said. "But now we might be talking about a 20 per cent rise for this year if Hollywood movies also fare well in the second half."