This past Tuesday, September 4, was opening day for《The Expendables 2》in China, an event much-anticipated by many filmgoers there. This was not only because mindless Hollywood action films are as popular there as elsewhere in the world (I suspect such films are made with the overseas proceeds uppermost in mind), but also because of the casting of well-regarded Chinese actress Yu Nan as the first female "Expendable." (We recently posted a translation of an interview with the actress on her experiences making the film.)
《The Expendables 2》has been retitled《Gansidui 2》敢死队 for mainland release, a title more indicative of the movie's content for Chinese audiences. Translated into English, that means either "Death Squad" or implicitly,"Suicide Squad". In Taiwan, the release title will be《Yuxue Renwu 2》浴血任务, which translates as "Bloody Mission."
Unlike in the U.S., where Friday is the usual day for major new releases, Tuesday is the common day in China, since Tuesday is also half-price ticket day, and a common marketing strategy is to release films on that day in order to attract a good first-day box office then use that as a loss-leader, relying on word of mouth to promote later sales. I haven't been able to find the total number of screens showing it nationwide, but it opened on 92 screens in Beijing alone. Chinese critics, both professional and amateur, have given it mostly good reviews. At Mtime.com, the most comprehensive of the various Chinese movie websites, 2,844 subscribers contributed ratings, giving it an average of 7.9 out of a possible 10; at douban.com, another popular review site, out of 6,155 ratings, the average was 3.5 out of a possible 5. In both cases, the highest rating by category was 8.1 for imagery, while the lowest was 6.4 for plot (no argument there). The two most common criticisms, which I have also seen expressed in western movie blogs and forums: 1) the advanced ages of some of the action heroes demanded from viewers a bit of what in theater appreciation classes is called "suspension of disbelief," and 2) disappointment at the brevity of Jet Li's appearance, little more than a cameo, or in Chinese slang, "soy sauce."
One cast member whose career will probably get a major boost from this is Yu Nan. (The Chinese release posters -- two of them reproduced here -- include her with the men.) In addition to the natural pride Chinese audiences would take in seeing one of their own in an important, non-villainous role, critics also noted the poise and demeanor of her character: as one put it, showing the "wisdom and calm of the Chinese woman." Decades of being portrayed by Hollywood as evil stereotypes (e.g.《The Thief of Baghdad》and《Welcome Danger》) with the Charlie Chan movies being welcome exceptions, have made the Chinese a bit sensitive in that regard. In addition, critics expressed approval of Yu Nan's having a significant role, not just a decorative "flower vase," the Chinese equivalent of what Americans call "eye candy." The day after this film's release was the actress's birthday, and its success in her home country was probably a welcome present.