Donnie's double

Donnie Yen predicts co-star Wang Baoqiang (right) will be the next big Hong Kong action hero.

SINGAPORE - It looks like martial arts hero Donnie Yen has found a worthy successor.

Chinese comedian-turned-actor Wang Baoqiang so impressed the veteran 51-year-old Hong Kong action superstar, that Yen spent much of this interview heaping praise on the young actor.

The two face off many times in the new actioner Kung Fu Jungle, which is about a maniacal serial killer, Fung Yu Sau (Wang), who draws former world wushu champion Ha Hou Mou (Yen) into a deadly game of cat and mouse.

"Baoqiang's performance was motivating and a huge surprise, in a great way," Yen said in Mandarin.

"He is humble, hard-working and doesn't have his head in the clouds. I see a glimpse of my younger self in him."

The industry veteran, whose career rocketed when he played the eponymous wing chun expert in Ip Man (2008), admitted he had

"initial reservations" about having Wang join the project.

"We needed someone with strong gongfu chops and we weren't sure if he could deliver," he said.

As it turns out, Yen needn't have worried.

Wang cut his teeth as a wacky comic and is a regular cast member of popular reality TV series Hurry Up, Brother, which is known as China's version of Korea's Running Man.

However, Wang is also Shaolin-trained and boasts solid fighting skills.

Said Yen: "I foresee Baoqiang becoming a leading man in action films."

Hard-hitting

Kung Fu Jungle, which also stars Hong Kong actress Charlie Young and Chinese actress Michelle Bai, opens tomorrow.

The movie has been referred to as an ode to Hong Kong's gongfu stars and it has cameos by real-life contemporary martial artists such as Louis Fan and Xing Yu.

In a separate interview, director Teddy Chan said that while these cameos were brief, it "wasn't hard getting the martial artists to participate".

"Even though their screen time wasn't much, they knew the material was very exciting. Their fight scenes allowed them to deliver their best moves" said Chan.

For an action movie to succeed, it cannot be a soulless affair, he added.

"You cannot (have a) fight for the sake of fighting, audiences will never buy it.

"A successful action film must still have a strong storyline with the four important Ws - why, what, where, and who - and one H - how - at its core."

One of the most exhilarating fight sequences in the movie sees Yen and Wang duelling at a busy highway. They slug it out as huge trucks zoom past, missing them by inches.

Yen recalled: "We made sure we minimised the risks as much as we could... That scene definitely had its share of dangerous moments."

keeyunt@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on October 29, 2014.
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