SHANGHAI • Flag-waving action film Wolf Warrior II soared past fantasy-romantic comedy The Mermaid to become China's highestgrossing film on Tuesday.
The wildly popular Wolf Warrior II, which boasts the ominous tagline "whoever offends China will be hunted down, no matter how far away they are", tells the story of Chinese former special forces operative Leng Feng's foray into an unnamed African war zone to rescue compatriots and downtrodden Africans from rebels and war-mongering Western mercenaries.
Featuring underwater martial arts battles, gun fights and car chases, the film culminates with a hand-to-hand brawl between Leng and a supervillain.
The film, directed by and featuring Chinese martial arts star Wu Jing as Leng, has taken in more than 3.4 billion yuan (S$690 million) since its debut on July 27, according to China box-office tracker Maoyan and other industry tallies.
The previous record of 3.39 billion yuan was held by Hong Kong film-maker Stephen Chow's The Mermaid, which was released last year.
The privately funded Wolf Warrior II, which lasts just over two hours, is riding a wave of patriotic fervour whipped by the ruling Communist Party.
It also comes soon after China opened a naval base in Djibouti, a major step in the country's military expansion abroad. The facility in the African nation is China's first overseas naval base.
However, not all patriotic Chinese films this season have enjoyed such success.
The Founding Of An Army, which chronicles the origins of the People's Liberation Army, has betterknown actors such as Liu Ye and Zhu Yawen, but has been panned by critics, moviegoers and even the families of a number of Chinese revolutionary heroes.
Its release coincided with the army's 90th anniversary on Aug 1, which was accompanied by celebrations and wall-to-wall media coverage.
Wolf Warrior II has gobbled up the competition, even though summer is traditionally a slower season for Chinese cinemas than Chinese New Year. It earned more than 423 million yuan on Sunday alone, the second-highest single-day earnings in China after The Fate Of The Furious.
Wolf Warrior II's ending sets the stage for a likely third instalment. The first film, released in 2015, had nothing like the success of the second film.
It is not the first time a film about Chinese heroes has become a hit.
In 2014, Hong Kong director Tsui Hark's The Taking Of Tiger Mountain, about a 1940s Chinese spy, earned 800 million yuan.
Last year, Hong Kong director Dante Lam's Operation Mekong, based on the true story of Chinese sailors who were murdered by members of a Myanmar drug-trafficking ring, took in 1.1 billion yuan.
The total revenue of Wolf Warrior II is expected to reach 5.15 billion yuan, according to Maoyan.
"My blood literally boiled for more than two hours and my heart was pumping with pride," said moviegoer Wang Qiushi from Changchun, Jilin province.
"To get a ticket, I went to a remote cinema in the city, but it was still very hard to find."
AGENCE FRANCEPRESSE, XINHUA