Donnie Yen is arguably the greatest martial artist working in cinema today. Contributing to the popularization of the martial art Wing Chun through his portrayal of grandmaster Ip Man (the man who trained Bruce Lee), Yen has also been credited with bringing with integrating MMA into Chinese culture by including elements of it in his fight scenes, starting in 2004’s SPL: Sha Po Lang (aka Kill Zone). He’s also noted for developing proficiency in various other disciplines, including Tai chi chuan, boxing, kickboxing, Jeet Kune Do, Hapkido, Taekwondo, karate, Muay Thai, wrestling, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Judo. Yen’s films also run the gamut from wuxia such as The Lost Bladesman, Iceman and Painted Skin to Hong Kong action flicks like Flashpoint, Special ID, martial arts flicks like the Ip Man series and Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen as well as big budget Hollywood fare including Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and xXx: Return of Xander Cage. The latter films have catapulted Yen to A-list status in America, making the 53-year-old action star a household name, which has resulted in more American-based projects.
According to Dealine, Yen has signed on to star as the lead in Sleeping Dogs, based on the top-selling video game of the same name from Square Enix. The film is being produced by DJ2 Entertainment and Original Films, the former courtesy of Neal H. Moritz, best known for producing the mega blockbuster Fast & Furious franchise, as well as the 21 Jump Street reboot. The former will likely serve as a template of sorts for the new film, giving the video game’s inclusion of martial arts, street racing, boat chases, and copious amounts of gun violence. The story will mirror the game’s and follow a policeman (Yen) who embarks on a mission to take down the notorious and dangerous Triads. The game’s protagonist was a police officer undercover with the Triads attempting to bring them down from the inside by pitting them against each other, focusing his obligation to his police mission whilst committing crimes to prove himself to the Triads. It’s unknown if the film will follow suit, but you can expect it will mine it extensively.
The game featured Hollywood level talent among its voice cast, including Will Yun Lee (The Wolverine, Elektra), Tom Wilkinson (Snowden, Selma), Byron Mann (The Big Short, The Man with the Iron Fists), Edison Chen (The Dark Knight, Initial D), Parry Shen (General Hospital, Hatchet II), James Hong (Blade Runner, Big Trouble in Little China), Emma Stone (La La Land, The Help), Robin Shou (Death Race, Mortal Kombat), Lucy Liu (Elementary, Kill Bill: Vol. 1) and Celina Jade (Arrow), so I can only imagine what kind of talent the film will bring to its cast.
Feature film video game adaptations are still struggling to obtain both critical and financial acclaim, with latest examples Warcraft and Assassin’s Creed both receiving mixed receptions. While they certainly have a ways to go in both regards, the involvement of Yen at least shows they’re trying to head in the right direction. The picture should start to become more clear once a director and screenwriter are announced.