Wolf Warrior II

(also being called WOLF WARRIORS II)

Some time in the last year or two I saw WOLF WARRIOR, the 2015 sophomore directing vehicle of martial arts star Wu Jing (KILL ZONE 1 and 2, FATAL CONTACT), but I barely remember it. Scott Adkins was the mercenary villain, and I remember it was cool to see him play a bad guy in a Hong Kong movie again, and that their fights were pretty good. But otherwise the movie made such little impression that I didn’t even feel like I had enough thoughts about it to write a review.

But now there’s a WOLF WARRIOR II and it’s such a big deal in China that it has already beaten THE MERMAID‘s record as their highest grossing film ever. And rather than making us wait for it to come over here later, they have it playing at the AMC theater downtown. Meanwhile, some people on Twitter were talking it up, and promised me that they enjoyed it without having seen the first one, so I decided to give it a shot.

I knew I’d made the correct decision maybe a minute in, during the underwater martial arts brawl and knife fight against pirates. They’ve just incapacitated a cargo ship when Leng Feng (Wu) dives into the water unarmed, wearing what looks like his casual cruise attire, shakes them out of their boat and fights them. It’s done as a oner, with some really spectacular camera moves around the battle, and I know there’s trickery involved but, I mean, they still shot a choreographed fight underwater. It’s like the pro-wrestling adage: no, it’s not real, but it is dangerous!

The sequence ends with a CGI bullet and an explosion and a metal logo loudly clanging onto the screen, which is the #1 way to begin an action movie sequel.

Feng didn’t just get lucky – he’s a super duper ultra mega badass of the elite Chinese special forces Wolf Warrior squadron. But right at the beginning he becomes a civilian by kicking a disrespectful slumlord through a windshield (I was unclear if he killed him or not). He does three years and when next we see him he’s living in an unnamed African country, a well-liked immigrant trading goods with the help of his Kobe-Bryant-jersey-wearing African godson Tundu.

When rebels (including soldiers in scary clown masks) attack the town, Feng and his Chinese friends have to fight their way to the embassy for evacuation on a battleship. He manages to get Tundu on board, but the poor kid doesn’t want to go without his mom, and Feng overhears soldiers talking about not being able to rescue an important doctor. Feng introduces himself and volunteers to rescue the doctor along with Tundu’s mom and other workers trapped in a Chinese factory. On this mission he faces

1. rebels

2. an army of asshole American mercenaries led by a guy called Big Daddy (Frank Grillo [THE GREY], an actor I really like, but fuck Hollywood Reporter for calling him “an upgrade on Scott Adkins from the first film”).

3. a deadly and highly-contagious plague

Oh and by the way he’s in Africa to search for the origin of a unique bullet that was found at the scene when his fiancee disappeared on a mission and now he wears it around his neck as a reminder.

He ends up unable to save the doctor, but promising him to rescue an African girl named Pasha, with the help of another doctor named Rachel Smith (Celina Jade, THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS). I was familiar with the very likable Jade from SKIN TRADE, but there was an important biographical detail I was not aware of until now: she’s the daughter of Roy Horan, writer and producer of NO RETREAT, NO SURRENDER 2. Or, to put it another way, her dad is Lewis, the Caucasian villain from GAME OF DEATH II, who has a pet monkey and a private island stocked with trained attack peacocks and lions! This guy:

Amazing! The Lewis Legacy continues.

Anyway Feng takes them to the factory, where he tries to get along with members of the security team to get past the mercenaries who have them trapped. There is some rivalry, some bonding and some preparation, but eventually there’s gonna be a battle with martial arts and jumping and shooting and exploding and crashing through buildings. This is the first movie I’ve seen where a tank zooms in and skids out like a sports car and sideswipes another tank.

As big budget movies become more and more international, and they want to hire real actors from different parts of the world (see Matt Damon in THE GREAT WALL), we may be getting past the days when we get to laugh at some Australian stuntman stiffly reading cue cards as the American general or whatever because they didn’t have many white guys to choose from. Unsurprisingly, it’s fun to see Grillo playing the cocky prick who’s gonna get his ass wolf warriored. And I guess if we’re going to be slandered as villains I’d rather be represented by a sneering Grillo than a vaping John Cusack.

Of the mercenaries, the second most notable one is the scarred female sharpshooter Athena. She looks tough like an MMA fighter – turns out she’s Heidi Moneymaker, a frequent stunt double for Scarlett Johansson and Michelle Rodriguez who also shows up as an assassin in JOHN WICK CHAPTER 2.

I’m not saying it has any of the emotional depth, but Wu has made Feng into kind of a Chinese Rambo (circa part 2), an ex-soldier who turns into a one-man-army to help people, tastelessly mining drama from real life conflicts, attempting to swell the hearts of his countrymen with nationalistic pride. He literally turns into a flagpole at the end, waving the red and yellow from his arm. And though he’s not fighting to redeem his country for a disastrous past conflict like Rambo was, he at least gets Big Daddy to admit that the Chinese military are better than he thought.

I often mention my love for how RAMBO III picks up with him in a far flung locale and drastically different lifestyle. This one goes ahead and gets that over with during a FAST FIVE style mid-credits scene that made me want to cheer.

The action filmatism is a little on the shaky/chaotic side, but not at the expense of clarity, to my eyes. Wu of course gets to show off his martial arts skills and stunt work, but there is a heavy emphasis on large bullets, shells, grenades and other things that cause fiery explosions. I was surprised to see some American names in the credits. The action director is Sam Hargrave of ATOMIC BLONDE fame – he’s so American that he was Captain America’s stunt double in THE WINTER SOLDIER. I believe fight choreographers Thayr Harris (THE PURGE) and Aaron Toney (KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS, CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, stunt double for The Falcon) are also American. Interesting that these guys all worked with Grillo and Moneymaker on the CAPTAIN AMERICA movies. This is apparently because Wu met the Russo Brothers and they introduced him to their team because he wanted to up the ante on the action. That seems backwards to me (it should be the Americans asking him!) but it worked out here.

Jack Wai-Leung Wong, who worked on KILL ZONE 2, also gets an action director credit. WOLF WARRIOR II is not a next level action movie like that one, either in execution of action or emotional content. It’s something dumber and crasser. To me it feels like kind of a throwback to what I liked in ’90s Jackie Chan movies and ’80s American action. But in that lane it excels. I’m really impressed how much Wu has grown as a screen presence and a director, and that he’s gone so quickly from forgettable-part-1 to I-hope-they-make-four-more-of-these-and-that-they-keep-getting-more-ridiculous.

I assure you that it is not necessary to have seen part 1 to understand part 2. But if you’re worried about it, I’ve noticed that the first one is streaming on Netflix. And it’s definitely decent, if not nearly as spectacular as the sequel.

For some of you it might be worth reading this much more critical review from Simon Abrams at rogerebert.com. By “much more critical” I mean that he gave it one star and called it racist and “intellectually repugnant.” I don’t disagree with all of his points. Honestly, if it were a better movie – a KILL ZONE 2 – I might be harder on its depiction of Feng’s African friends and enemies, but I see all of the characters as broad in a RUMBLE IN THE BRONX sort of way, so I have a hard time taking them that seriously.

I do think the story is more humane and less China-first than his review suggests. Feng’s mission is specifically to rescue Chinese citizens, but he defies the factory owners by refusing to leave behind their African employees.

You’ll notice that Abrams’ review and mine both compare WOLF WARRIOR II to RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II, but only one of us means that as a compliment. That pretty much sums up our disagreement.

I mentioned what a big hit this is in China, get this: According to Box Office Mojo, TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT has grossed $594 million worldwide since its release seven weeks ago. WOLF WARRIOR II made $682 million in its first 17 days. Another sign that we’re not the main market for movies anymore. I go see these Chinese imports sometimes and I’m usually there with less than ten people. There were maybe three or four times more than usual at the matinee I went to for this one, and a week later I saw a full summer movie sized crowd (all Asian) coming out of a showing. So this seems to be a genuine phenomenon. That is not to say it’s the best Chinese cinema has to offer, but it’s a big macho pop action movie and since many of us like that sort of thing around here I highly recommend it.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 15th, 2017 at 11:18 am and is filed under Action, Monster, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

48 Responses to “Wolf Warrior II”

  1. Ugh maybe I will have to go tonight.

  2. Who else is going to tell me that the ONE Chinese movie I decided to pass on not seeing at my local AMC that played it for one week was awesome…
    -their choices of what to play are odd, they wont play the Jackie Chan or Donnie Yen ones, SPL2, but they will play every single Journey to the West adaptation and any CG-clusterfucks. They also have an annoying habit of showing trailers for movies I’m interested in seeing (like COOKING UP A STORM) and then they never show up locally… The last few blind-views I went to in order to support Chinese-movies being played here locally weren’t too good so and like Vern I wasn’t that big into the first one so I decided to pass… only literally the day after it’s run ended (my AMC typically only keeps them for a week unless it does unexpectedly well like IP MAN 3 and THE MERMAID) the Internet exploded with praise on how awesome it is. So like I said in the BOYKA thread, thanks for the heads-up guys!

    I look forward to this one on ye ‘ol home video.

    Kudos to the second Amazon link.

  3. The ending has this message from the Producers.

    “All Chinese citizens overseas remember. Your Mother Country is ready to support you with a strong and brave Army!”

    And there’s a Post Credits scene for WOLF WARRIOR III.

  4. Frank Grillo and Iko Uwais in this BEYOND SKYLINE Trailer.

    Looks pretty good.

    BeyondSkyline Trailer International

    From Writer-Director Liam O'Donnell comes BEYOND SKYLINE - Starring Frank Grillo and Iko Uwais - this film is being brought to us by the wizards at XYZ FILMS...

  5. I’m going to go check out Wolf Warrior 2 tonight but I’m reminded how I saw the trailer, thought it looked awesome and when I went to look out for more information there was no IMDB page and the movie had already come out in China. There are movies that somebody made up that get put up faster than this one. Thought it was interesting.

    The question I have is will I actually miss them not making the Raid remake with Frank Grillo based on this movie.

  6. I don’t understand how this movie got a sequel but it does look better than the Transformer movies I guess.

  7. I thought that thumbnail looked like Frank Grillo, and am surprised to learn that it actually is him! I probably would have followed Vern’s recommendation and sought this thing out anyway, but Grillo seals it. I think he’s fantastic. He was the star of Kingdom, a pretty greatTV show that just ended, where he played the owner of an MMA gym. It’s on an obscure channel, and the fact that it just ended probably makes it harder to track down, but I’d recommend it to anyone. Cool that Grillo did a Chinese action movie.

  8. Did you know that Frank Grillo is in a sequel to that shitty movie SKYLINE? And Yayan Ruhian and Iko Uwais are his co-stars which makes me pretty much want to see it. Its the sequel I never knew I actually wanted.

  9. Broddie, do you ignore all posts for Felix because he posted the trailer to Beyond Skyline 5 and a half hours before you posted this. LOL

    Vern, I did go tonight to watch Wolf Warrior II with ten other people, 8 of them asian, and I friggin’ loved this movie. I’m so glad I saw the trailer once a while ago and didn’t see any clips since so everything was a surprise. I thought that first big set piece when we first see the rebels attack the town. It was intense and exciting and scary and pretty much better than any action scene I’ve seen outside of a John Wick. I also had the same Rumble in the Bronx thought that you did during the movie. Man that final fight between Wu Jing and Frank Grillo/Frank Grillo’s stunt double was so good.

    This movie has had to have one of the highest body counts of any action movie I’ve seen in theaters in a while. I’m pretty sure it has more than both John Wick movies and those two have a huge body count.

    I also thought the patriotism was kind of funny a bunch of the times but I kept thinking that, while more over the top, this must be the same way other people feel about watching patriotic American action movies.

    For the wrestling fans, Kozlov from the WWE has a part as one of the mercenaries. He’s pretty cool in it.

    Vern, also, they mention the mercenaries were European mercenaries and aren’t said to be American but I think it’s clear they’re generally referencing the west.

    I also loved the older guy that helps Wu Jing’s character.

    Fuck I just thought this movie was awesome and made my week because my week sucked.

  10. I like Celina Jade here. Wish someone would let her display her Martial Arts skills.

  11. Stern I had not read the whole thread just JTS’ post.

  12. I’ll 4th the praise for Kingdom. From memory the order I heard it in went Mouth-Majestyk-JTS. Criminally unseen and just a straight-up solid drama on all levels. Have just finished season 2 and am eager for the 3rd (and last?).

    Goes without saying that Grillo is top-notch in it, but I came away thinking Jonathan Tucker is by far the heart and soul of the show. I have new respect for his dedication to going all the way in that performance.

    And I want a friend like Keith.

  13. I would say Grillo fairs a lot better in it than Paul Rudd.

  14. Master Troy, for sure, as much as I love Frank Grillo, Jonathon Tucker is still the greatest. If Kingdom was a more watched show, his role as Jay Kulina would have made him a star. Such a layered character — simultaneously tough and fragile, alternately hilarious and heartbreaking. Especially heartbreaking. Goddamn so heartbreaking. No show has made me cry as much as Kingdom (or movie, but movie’s not a fair comparison since it’s got a lot less shots at it).

    And yeah, the third season is the last, unfortunately. They didn’t intend it to be, and I wish they could have done more, but the ending still works.

  15. For the record, I have never seen KINGDOM. I’m sure it’s a good show but I don’t really do dramas.

  16. geoffreyjar – It seems like the AMC near me tends to play mainland Chinese movies over the more Hong Kong-oriented fare, so I wasn’t surprised when something like SPL 2 or Johnnie To’s THREE never made it there.

    People seemed pleasantly surprised at my Wolf Warriors 2 screening when the actor who played the spoiled brat security member first showed up. I have no idea who he is, but I like how his character turned out to be such a goofball while Wu Jing and the older guy got to be the full-on badasses. Grillo’s crew was nicely assembled, with each member getting a bit of a chance to shine, although it would’ve been nice to get even more from them. Celina Jade was also good, but I was constantly reminded of Olivia Munn whenever she was onscreen. Maybe it’s just me.

    I love how this movie provides both a nice credits scene and Chan-style outtakes at the end. That’s a great way to send you out of the theatre.

  17. Joe: Yeah that’s what I suspected. The Mainland China-owned AMC chain greatly favors Mainland productions. Still happy we have the opportunity to see any of them though (I got to see IP MAN 3, THE MERMAID (in 3D!), and JOURNEY TO THE WEST: CONQUER THE DEMONS (also in 3D) so it works out real good when it does).

    Anyways, Stern loved it so I know now to greatly reduce my expectations and not be disappointed I missed it now.*


  18. That’s fair but Vern also loved it so that cancels me out.

  19. Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit!!

  20. JTS, too bad it ends so soon. After watching season 2 on DVD I was happy to discover a few months later the release of Season 2 Part B, which added an additional 10 episodes. So in terms of quantity it’s like having 4 good seasons.

    While Tucker unquestionably steals the show, I also thought Ryan’s (Matt Laurier) story was heartrending. His guilt over, and the subsequent search for redemption and forgiveness from his father (the great M.C. Gainey) was what got me a little misty-eyed. And then the power of his fathers words during the filming of the documentary. Damn. For a show about tough guys competing in MMA tournaments it sure catches you unawares in the heart-string region.

  21. Saw this on the big screen last night, first of three movies I watched. Great action, and they kept things moving. Only person in theater at 4;30 viewing.

  22. MUCH love for Kingdom and its whole cast, save for that fucking wall plant Jonas who showed no personality whatsoever.
    I also liked Grillo in Warrior; there too he was an MMA coach. I guess he liked the character.

    I will need to watch this now!

  23. Film Crit Hulk SMASH: The Reflexive Propaganda Of WOLF WARRIOR 2

    Propaganda movies are alive and well and they're in the mirror.

    Terrible articles like this one really underscore how lucky we are to have a guy like Vern around. There might be good points in here but it’s just so poorly written.

  24. Whoa… Birth, Movies, Rape Apologists has a shitty preachy article? One from Film Crit Hulk even? The guy who preached how awesome and perfect Marvel Studio movies are and then started writing articles about how shitty and pandering they are as if they suddenly changed how they made their movies? The same one who said MAN OF STEEL was terrible because they didn’t make it the way he would’ve made it? Aw man, let me guess the article is over-long, over-written, uses big-boy words so we the readers know how smart and educate Hulk is (to make up for his non-big-boy writing style), it is written from the basis that Hulk is irrefutably write and it is impossible refute what he says because it is so right? Also, the comments section is filled with guys who just yesterday were talking about how awesome WOLF WARRIOR 2 was and are now pretending they NEVER liked it and ALWAYS knew it was icky propaganda and Hulk totally dropped the mic on it like John Oliver, Trever Noah, and Stephen Colbert drop the mic on Trump every week (which has been super-effective let me tell you)?

    So yeah, not surprised. Refuse to give Birth, Movie, Rape Apologist any clicks and even before making that decision I was done with Film Crit Hulk’s bullshit.

    Anyways, totes agree that we are supremely lucky to have Vern around. I’m honestly not sure were I would be as a movie fan without him and those who post here.

  25. That was a hell of a rant against that site and the writer. It happened to pop up on my news feed. What’s the deal with the rape apologist stuff?

    Also, yes it’s overly long, over written with big boy words trying to prove how smart he is. One of the things I super appreciate about Vern is that none of his articles ever feel like they’re too long. I always think he writes the right amount of words that need to be said about a movie.

  26. “What’s the deal with the rape apologist stuff?”

    First up, molestation-apologist would be apt. I must admit I went for the click-baity ‘shock’ headline. I apologize.

    Their original editor-in-chief setup the site to be a SJW safe-space (both terms used ironically!) that is quick to call out sexism and brag how woke you are. This was odd considering the editor-in-chief’s past. Then it was learned (well finally ‘proven’), while he was ranting how what a horrible sexist pig Trump is, that he pretty much has the same view on women that Trump does. Suddenly the site that never hesitated to call out any and everyone for being pieces-of-shit and not woke enough even though they all defended their editor-in-chief telling people to go kill themselves and that people who liked things he didn’t are probably rapists and/or sexual deviants suddenly went silent and refused to make a real statement on him and ALL the writers for the site started retweeting an article that victim-blamed the person who outed him.

    I used to think putting up with his (and his site’s) shittiness was maybe worth it to get a differing take on things and sometimes they do/did post something really good and/or interesting but I couldn’t really lie to myself anymore after that. I used to bring him/them up here sometimes and it would annoy some, I thought they were worth discussing but it took me a bit to finally learn Mr. M’s opinion on him/them: “Dude’s an asshole, why do I care what an asshole thinks?”

  27. I watched the first Wolf Warrior about a week or so ago, and while I had an absolute blast with the film, I can understand why it might make some people uneasy. Its nationalistic goals are really heavy handed. I found this to be mostly campy and funny, like the moment when one woman in the control room sheds a little tear after a soldier with a family dies. (They actually include a black and white flashback to him talking about his son from thirty minutes earlier in the film just to drive the point home). There are also some genuinely fun action scenes.

    But I can see why this could also be disturbing for some people. Nationalism has killed millions of people. It can also short circuit the logical thinking parts of our brain. I can’t say that there isn’t a danger present in propaganda movies like Wolf Warrior and its sequel, even if I can sort of ignore that danger for an hour and a half or so while I’m watching them.

  28. geoffreyjar: I don’t know if I should bother defending that article since you seem happy enough to criticize it without having any intention of reading it, but the point of it is not that WOLF WARRIOR II is propaganda and therefore icky and bad, it’s that it provides a unique opportunity to see that kind of film from the perspective of an outsider. FCH has far too many articles that are overwritten and overlong but this isn’t one of them; it’s perfectly readable and half the length of Vern’s review.

  29. It’s not that readable. I tried like twice.

  30. Sternshein – I don’t know you that well but I do know you would HATE Birth Movies Death. I know sometimes you’ve hinted that you think there’s a bit of a hive mind going on here, but let me tell you, we’ve got nothing on that gang. If you happen to disagree with the writer of whichever article you’re reading, people will jump on you in the comments in a heartbeat, usually (as Geoffrey pointed out) leading to accusations of sexism/racism being thrown around.

    Ex) A guy there dared to ask why the new Death Note series was considered “whitewashing” when something like The Departed was just called an adaptation or a remake. Within 2 seconds someone goes “Well i guess you’re ok with Bill and Ted calling each other “fags” because that’s what they did back then, huh?” That’s a typical exchange where someone jumps from point A to Z and it makes everyone else go, “Well, I can’t really agree with the first guy now because he’s somehow been equated with a homophobe?” I do like some of their stuff and still check the site out, but yeah when you have a meeting place for people to supposedly discuss film but the real goal seems to be for people to outwoke each other, the result is an environment that can only be described as toxic.

    I feel in 20 years there’s going to be studies showing how the woke liberal blog culture of the 2010’s (Jezebel, Gawker, Birth Movies Death, etc…) actually did more harm than good, pushing away and alienating the moderate people and potential allies that we need more than ever right now.

  31. I don’t know. I learned alot from the things Devin Faraci wrote about, and I miss his writing and podcasting. I think he was always an asshole slowly learning to be less of an asshole. Unfortunately he had long ago crossed a line that makes it hard or impossible for that sort of atonement to be done publicly. But he was smart and funny and brought attention to many cool things. His bowing out of the public eye left a hole that hasn’t really been filled in my opinion.

    And I’m not sure if he would hate or love WOLF WARRIOR II.

  32. Crust: Not defending myself here but I will admit that I am being 100% shallow and in the wrong on this one (by pre-judging it without reading it). I made sure to put in my post that I’m being horribly one-sided and probably taking it personally in regards to them. I am in no way painting myself as in the right. So I will say it is good to hear that it is not what I pre-judged it as being and thank you for the information.

    neal: My favorite of the hive-minding over there was Devin railing against STAR WARS hard, calling it the worst franchise with the worst fandom ever, the comments section agreed that STAR WARS was awful and terrible (all of it). One of the site’s writers even tweeted about how he thought the original STAR WARS (Episode 4) was boring and terrible and he couldn’t even finish it.

    Then Devin got invited by Disney to do some promotion thing for THE FORCE AWAKENS. All of a sudden STAR WARS was great and he couldn’t wait to see it. All of a sudden the comments section made a complete turn-around and started talking about how hyped they were for FORCE AWAKENS (some of the commenters literally where talking about how they couldn’t care less about FORCE just the day before). The writer who said he couldn’t even make it through the original STAR WARS because it was so awful was now tweeting how they can’t release spoilers and new information on FORCE fast enough. I mean there is a part of me that wants to give Devin the benefit of the doubt that he was very impressed by what he saw, but I’m too cynical and Harry Knowles set the bar for Internet film-journalism too low for me to believe anything else other than he was bought and sold. Anyways, it was mostly the comments section just echoing whatever Devin said that kinda creeped me out.

    Vern: As stated, I used to take that stance as well. ‘He’s a bit of an asshole but he is a good writer and brings up some points and he is getting better at not being a complete asshole.’ So I kept going back, then I learned he wasn’t getting better and he was still an asshole. He was proud of being an asshole and anyone who disagreed with him was a sexual deviant (ironic now) or #fakenerd. It was Mr. M’s comment here in the BATMAN V SUPERMAN thread that finally got to the heart of the matter ‘Dude’s an asshole, why do I care what an asshole thinks.’ Stopped going to BMD and found I actually didn’t miss them (I thought I was) and then not long after his past finally caught up with him.

    Honestly I see him making a comeback. Every now and then I see someone talking about how great his ‘recovery’ is going and just recently Amy Nichols called him ‘brave.’ He’s straight and white and made the right friends, probably just waiting for the heat to fully die down and he’ll get the second chance that he denied many people (not to mention first chances because since then a bunch of women came out saying he trashed their careers after they refused to date/sleep with him).

    I feel I was one of the ones who helped enable him as I kept giving his site clicks and kept recommending him to others and even kept bringing him up here pissing off some other commenters. So yeah, I’m foolishly making it a bit overly personal and why I’m ranting about an article I didn’t even read adding to a greater problem of pre-judging journalism based on headlines rather than it’s content.

  33. I don’t think there is Hive Mind going on here because I think we’ve all had varied opinions and had disagreements and nobody here ever really agrees on everything. The only reason why I come here aside from Vern is that I like reading what you guys have to say. Some of you are also fantastic writers as well and that comes across in the talk backs. I am just an average writer so that’s why I’m all over the place.

  34. Sternshein – sorry for making assumptions, it’s definitely hard to gauge tone and intention across the internet. However I do think you’re selling yourself short – you’re definitely an above average writer!

    geoffrey- The Devin Comeback you predicted has begun – but judging from the comments on the Drafthouse CEO’s FB page, I suspect it’s going to be VERY short. (The decision will probably be reversed by the time you read this) I mean, when you have hipsters threatening to boycott Alamo Drafthouse (yeah right), you know something’s gone horribly awry. I could see his comeback going either way, but let’s be honest – the internet is an unforgiving beast and the same fanbase that, as you pointed out, flip-flopped to agree with every word Devin said, was certainly quick to not only turn on him, but also add an extra layer of distance to show how non-scummy they are, i.e.. comments on BMD immediately saying things like “Yeah, y’know, this doesn’t surprise me at all that Devin sexually assaulted someone since he gave that Woody Allen movie a positive review”, or “Yeah I totally figured he sexually assaulted someone because of how mean he was to Amy on the Canon”.

    Personally I’m kinda conflicted about the idea of him having a comeback – I think Victor Salva, for instance, went to trial, was found guilty, served his time, and should be allowed to work again (as opposed to you know, crawling in a cave and dying of hunger). But wait….”he shouldn’t be able to direct movies, because he used his directing position and power to molest those little boys”. True, I totally understand that viewpoint. I don’t think he should be able to direct movies with little boys in them, that’s for sure. But the people who are saying the same thing about Devin, that he shouldn’t be allowed to have his job back, are seriously over-estimating the power of being an internet blogger. I mean, if he actually uses “I’m a grumpy online film critic” to seduce and prey on women, good luck to him. So yeah, Alamo should be free to hire him, and people should be free to pretend they’re going to boycott. (On a side note, I’m willing to bet that somewhere, amongst the dozens of Alamo locations, a convicted murderer is probably already trying to get his life back on track by sweeping the aisles or selling concessions, but let’s not worry about that!)

    Tim League

    Nearly a year ago, sexual misconduct allegations were brought against an Alamo Drafthouse employee, Devin Faraci. Though Devin did not recall the event, he did not doubt the allegations. Instead, he...

  35. I’ve been thinking similar things, Neal. I was not about to get into it on Twitter but the attacks on the Alamo were kind of upsetting to me. People who have done their time should be able to get jobs, a business shouldn’t be shamed for giving them a chance. Devin hasn’t been charged with anything, so what’s he supposed to do? Die? Is that really what you believe?

    If someone can’t forgive him for what he did, that’s fine, even though most of what I read is people who haven’t forgiven him for his abrasive personality and/or his disagreements with Gamergaters or DC fans or a million other things. His own doing, I guess. I suppose I should want him to never be able to have food or shelter again because I don’t like his interpretation of MAN OF STEEL.

    How his attempts at rehabilitation and amends are going are things we know nothing about. But he lost his soapbox on one of the best movie websights, which he created and built after years of establishing himself and his relationships and improving his writing. That is something that can never come back. For Tim League to want to help his friend and colleague by giving him work copy editing isn’t harming anyone and isn’t our business to be against (and probly isn’t enough to pay his bills). They said Devin was stepping down from Birth Movies Death. They didn’t say they were going to make sure he starved to death. If it disgusts you to read his writing in the Fantastic Fest blurbs then yeah, let League know and that might not happen again. That’s fair.

    I once had two co-workers who were fucking up because of heroin addiction, and one of them sold thousands of dollars worth of product through the business but with the payments going to his own Paypal. They were fired but the owners did not press charges and paid for their rehab. Nobody should be expected to have that kind of forgiveness, but they shouldn’t be attacked for it! It’s called being a good person. If it’s someone you worked with and are friends with maybe you will have different feelings about how you want to help them then you will when you make pronouncements about someone else’s life via the internet.

    This is personal to me because it brings up issues of my own guilt for not helping people the way League is trying to do. There is an outlawvern.com reader and commenter from way back who is currently doing time. He sent me a nice letter after he got convicted. He had been a writer and it was a well-written letter and I worked really hard to write an encouraging letter back to him. Before I sent it it was in the news what he had done. Also I found out he was a notorious, hated figure on the internet, very much the opposite of how he had been here. I felt that he had misled me and it changed the whole way I felt about it. But I also felt like if this guy was gonna try to rehabilitate this was my chance to say something positive and help be part of the light at the end of the tunnel to get him through his bid and hopefully start a better life when he gets out.

    I never finished or sent the letter. He was about to be transferred and I don’t know his address now. I didn’t delete the file and it sits on my computer and when I notice it I feel guilty.

    I also think about an uncle and cousin who have been in trouble with the law, the uncle for much worse crimes than Devin’s. I was cut off from them, and last saw the uncle at my dad’s funeral. I expect I won’t ever see them again. But I have guilt about my cousin having different opportunities than me and the way his life went. That I never talk to him and haven’t tried to help him does not make me a better person. That I didn’t try to help the guy that sent me the letter doesn’t make me a better person. So fuck all this judging of Tim League trying to do the right thing in a difficult position.

  36. Amen, Vern. The internet has done a great job of pulling the veil away and holding people accountable for being assholes and hypocrites, and giving victims a voice even against people in positions of relative power. But it hasn’t yet adjusted to the fact that, when a life is entirely exposed and made public, I think basically everyone has moments of being an asshole or a hypocrite. I certainly have. I try to be a good person, I really make an effort to strive for excellence, but I fall short a lot. If internet commentators saw me at my worst I’m sure they’d have plenty of good reasons to hate me, and I think plenty of people would find that reason enough to try and harm me in one way or another. And of course, if they then had their worst moments revealed publicly, I think others would probably have reason to turn on them, too.

    It’s good to hold people accountable and demand high standards, but I think it’s equally destructive to reduce people to their worst moments and completely repudiate their very existence. Not only is that unduly harsh for most crimes, but it dis-encourages people to improve and grow and try harder. And we need them to do that, because hey, no matter how much we might turn our noses up at their work, they’re still around. Unless we’re willing to start instituting the death penalty for crimes against the internet, these people still have to live among us, and so we need them to be better, not just to be shunned. There’s definitely a time for condemnation, but there’s also a time for rehabilitation, and that second part seems to be of frighteningly little interest to your average net-dweller. And I can’t help but feel that vigorously joining in condemnation but neglecting the second part –the one which actually improves the world– really does make the condemnation ring a little hollow. I don’t doubt that people mean it when they say they’re offended, but there’s a deeply troubling glee which it evident in these online shame mobs that I think robs them of a lot of their superficial moral strength, and makes civilians unduly cynical about how much of their beliefs are genuine altruism and how much are a self-serving power trip, which complicates the moral issues which really ought to be fairly simple.

    I hope as the internet ages and people become more sophisticated about the things it does to us, we will get smarter and more nuanced about this too. But right now, there sure doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.

  37. If Americans actually believed in rehabilitation, ex-cons would be able to vote.

  38. Please do not take this as a defense of Faraci, whom I know only as an internet shit-starter and thus not worth the effort. But it’s true that we all like to pay homage to the concept of redemption in the stories we tell, but we really don’t believe in it unless the person is rich and famous and can still make money for somebody.

  39. ” I suppose I should want him to never be able to have food or shelter again because I don’t like his interpretation of MAN OF STEEL. ”

    That’s really an indictment of our country’s economics, though.

    See I really don’t want to ever have to read anything from Farraci again – he was an obnoxious, stupid asshole who literally lied about what was in movies he didn’t like and whose analysis was typically Peak Internet Dumbshit – but I also don’t think he should starve or die of exposure. In fact I want him to prosper, just in a way that doesn’t allow him to hurt more women, or for me to be exposed to his dumbshit opinions. Let him work on himself, and his degeneracy, in material comfort.

    So this is really fun, now if I oppose Farraci’s comeback I’m basically condoning him to eternal penury, which I really don’t want. This is 100% unironic and not sarcastic – I really do mean that. So I’m in a fucking pickle, guys.

    I guess I’ll go with “I hope he shuts the fuck up because he’s not smart enough to be the taste-making cultural gatekeeper he so clearly wants to be” and wish him well in his self-improvement activities. But even more urgently, I wish peace, happiness, and recovery to all the women he sexually assaulted over the years. Sorry, ladies. Devin has powerful friends and won’t have to face up to what he’s done. Oh well, at least he’s trying to get better.

  40. I mean, come on, it’s been less than a year. His rich friend has utterly saved his ass. May we all be so lucky. (he’s going to relapse, btw)

  41. Why are the choices “he shouldn’t get to work for Alamo anymore” and “he starves to death”? I’m sure there are plenty of abusive toxic people out there, and maybe even some reformed ones, that manage to stay alive without Tim League giving them writing jobs.

  42. I wrote that under the assumption that it is not a “comeback,” but him getting some minor work to help pay the bills. I don’t expect him to be an editor in chief again or probly even a columnist. Many were outraged that Drafthouse had been “secretly” paying him to copy edit, and that’s the part that I don’t think is anybody’s business to be mad about.

  43. Well Vern I agree with you. I would think that League would be smart enough to keep his toxic name off the blurbs and keep him safely out of sight, but…here we are.

    JTS, you’re right. There are plenty of toxic abusive people out there with jobs. Mostly in management. Very few in jobs with such a huge PR component.

  44. Although I don’t like people judging League’s actions on this from the outside, someone who is part of the organization certainly has a right to. Longtime programmer Todd Brown unfortunately resigned in protest of what went down, and he wrote a very powerful statement about it:


  45. Considering I pretty much started this discussion I feel the need to comment.

    First off, I apologize for my bitchy rant above. I should NOT have posted that, it was childish and embarrassing. Karlos (who is cool) posted a few BMD articles and I held my tongue from posting any ‘I refuse to click that link’ posts but when Stern (who is ALSO cool!) posted his opinions of a BMD piece I made the decision to unload personal (childish) feelings about them. I was rightfully called out (more or less) by Vern and Crust while I admitted it was a personal matter I didn’t really apologize for bring that bile here in the first place and also didn’t admit to the fact that I should NOT have posted that in the first place. I broke a rule I have for myself and many others that not everything needs to be posted and aired publicly. So for that I do apologize.

    As for Faraci coming back (kinda), believe it or not, I am conflicted. I do admit I have not been personally wrong by him, never told anything by him or blocked/banned what-have-you, so my opinion of him comes completely from my opinion of how he treated others and my own personal shame of visiting his website and Twitter and recommending his work. That said for the past few years I have been doing my own thinking on forgiving and moving along. Not long ago there was a conversation here about Mike Tyson. He served his time and it’s SUPPOSED to work via we give him another chance as he didn’t get off scott-free. Yet what he did was a horrible thing and we definitely do not OWE him a second-chance. I was tempted but did not post in that conversation but ultimately I came down towards ‘he served his time he as a society should be willing to give him another chance (if he ends up being a repeat offender though…).’ That said, I’d never tell a survivor of such trauma that they need to give him a second chance, move-on, etc.

    I come from a family of abuse and last year to put my money where my mouth is I decided to let my dad back into my life and give him a second chance after 15 or 20 so years of not talking to him and hating him. I decided to be the better man. To find out he hasn’t changed one bit and I kinda regret giving him that second chance. Difference now is that he can’t beat me or my mom or my sister anymore and acts on his best behavior towards me so that I keep in contact with him. So it IS better but I can tell his attitude and beliefs are just as toxic. I keep telling myself to be the better man and just give a practically dying man some solace but I still wrestle if I’m making the right choice (btw I decided to do so after the cluster-fuck of starting a family last year (see CROUCHING TIGER comments). So not long after learning that my dad was still a piece-of-shit, the allegations against Devin came out and I must admit that along with my opinion of Devin beforehand and the recent dad-experiences, it probably hit harder than it could have otherwise.

    That said to go along with my quest to be a better person and learn to not hold on to grudges and give second chances I can totally see Tim League’s (and the other BMD staffers that I very assholisly (and thus wrongly!) called out in the rant above) scenario: Devin wasn’t some semi-celebrity asshole to them, he was a friend. League doesn’t see what we/I see when it comes to Devin, he sees a bro who has stumbled. Not only that, he sees one who is (supposedly) trying to better himself and looking for a second chance (aka an ability to pay bills and eat). So League is doing what (I’d argue) any good friend would try to do under such circumstances, he’s gonna help a bro out. He has to know I’d think what it would do to his and his organization’s reputation but he decided helping a friend is more important.

    But then there is the argument that why does he get a second-chance when so many who aren’t sexual-assaulters can’t even get a first chance and other such arguments. Like I said, I don’t think there’s a right answer here. As discussed with others already: You’re either willingly wishing for someone to starve and telling them they don’t get/deserve a second chance or you’re giving into and supporting the patriarchy bro-club society many are trying to get us out of.

  46. No apology necessary, Geoffreyjar. I was glad you brought it up because I’d read a million things about it on Twitter, knew better to get into it there, but had some things to get off my chest. I definitely did not think I was calling you out in any way, I was just responding to what I’d read people saying about the Alamo elsewhere, not having seen one person treating it as a complex matter. You clearly see the nuance of the situation.

  47. Having had mixed experiences with Wu Jing in the past, I was not expecting to love this one this much. I’ve never fronted on the man’s skills, but the dour tone of the movies I’ve seen him in kept me from ever really connecting to him. I never would have guessed he had something so colorful and goofy in him as this one. It’s not trying to next-level the genre or transcend it or incorporate horror or thriller elements or subvert conventions or any of that shit. It’s just a fuckin’ action movie. Big, bold, dumb as fuck, and all the more lizard-brain satisfying because of it. Good guys over here, bad guys over here, huge explosions in the middle. It’s not rocket science, despite the presence of all the rockets.

    I will admit that I am perhaps not enjoying the film entirely on the level its creator intended. The po’faced melodrama in his other work indicates that I was perhaps NOT supposed to be cackling wildly at the seemingly unending daisy chain of massacred civilians pouring out of that bunker at the end. I suspect I was intended to take such wanton slaughter of innocents as legitimate stakes-raising, illustrating the moral and dramatic weight of the situation. I got the opposite: It’s so over-the-top and emotionally manipulative that it set me free to geek out on the simplistic, reductive catharsis the movie was selling. The genre has come a long way in terms of drama since the days of muscley non-actors delivering one-liners with one sleeve torn off their shirts, but this movie was a reminder that action, at least in its purest form, is NOT drama. Drama is about nuance, subtlety, exploring different points of view. Action is more primal than that. Drama asks questions; action provides answers. Its power is in boiling down all of life’s complexities into one obvious obstacle to overcome: Find the fucker who’s fucking everything up and punch a bullet into his brain. It works because it ISN’T life. Life is complicated. Action is simple. This movie is the clearest expression of that concept that I’ve seen in years. I loved it.

  48. A look at the Wolf Warrior series.

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