SLEEPING DOGS: The Video Game Inspired Martial Arts Thriller Starring Donnie Yen that Needs to Happen!

By: John M Jerva

While growing up on all things action in the day, I am eternally grateful that I discovered Hong Kong action cinema back in the late 80’s and 90’s. Back then, there was nothing better than a film from that region that starred the likes of Chow Yun-Fat, Jackie Chan, Yuen Biao, Sammo Hung and of course the man himself, Donnie Yen. Whether it was Gun Fu or Kung Fu, it was the pinnacle of action cinema and a true master class in how to execute for maximum results.

As an avid practitioner of the arts since my teens, I always gravitated to kicking and even though I studied the art of American Kenpo, which really didn’t focus on high or fancy kicks, I still perfected them as they are a hell of a lot of fun to do. Since I loved kicking, I was immediately entranced with Donnie Yen as he had the most amazing kicks I’ve ever seen and his combinations were jaw dropping and inspiring. Let’s not forget that Yen is lightning quick with his flawless movement and it’s like watching a devastating tornado take out anyone sighing close proximity.

I was an instant admirer of Yen and his films and to this day, he is one of the most influential people in the arts that made me the fan I am today.

Yen is still going strong and is still primed and ready to deliver action cinematic assaults on the senses. His most recent output, Raging Fire, was one of the best action films of last year and it boggles my mind when I hear any negative reviews on it. To each their own and beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder but that movie shows that Yen is still the best of the best and the Navy SEAL of action cinema.

In my youth, I also played a variety of fighting video games just like any other kid with Mortal Kombat, and Street Fighter being my go to sources of entertainment but there were two other games that became favorites of mine and they were Rise to Honor which had you basically playing as Jet Li and the subsequent Sleeping Dogs which was a sprawling HK epic fight film/cop thriller disguised as a video game.

A few years back when I was starting my little old website, it was announced that Donnie Yen would be starring in a live action adaptation of Sleeping Dogs. You can imagine the excitement meter in my mind going through the roof when this happened and I excitedly wrote several posts about the project and of Yen’s involvement.

Sleeping Dogs is tailor made for a live action adaptation as when I was playing the video game, I would imagine that it was Yen that I was controlling. It also helps to mention that Yen was also making cop thrillers like SPL, Flashpoint and Special I.D. that were basically auditions and rehearsals for a Sleeping Dog live action adaptation. His look in Special I.D. was even a dead ringer for the lead character in the game. Say what you will about that one but I thought it was a solid piece of HK action and it delivered the Yen spectacle of set pieces even with its flaws.

Unfortunately, as of now, Sleeping Dogs still remains in developmental hell to this day. Yen has teased it on social media to a degree but alas he’s still trying to make it work and bring it up life. Here’s my most recent post on the film from August of 2021.

“I’m still hopeful. I mean, every day they tell me it’s going to happen. I’m co-producing and collaborating with [producers] Neil Moritz and Toby [Ascher], with their company, and currently talking with a couple of big platforms. And they tell me every single day it’s going to happen, so we’ll see. Like I said, I believe in destiny. So, if it’s going to happen, hopefully, it will happen the first half of next year,” Yen said in his interview with Collider last year.

With Yen saying goodbye to the period Kung Fu flicks after Ip Man 4: The Finale, the modern day police thriller infused with blistering martial arts action and rapid fire shootouts is the next evolution and Raging Fire is a direct representation of that. Yen is set to star as Wei Shen who is an undercover cop tasked with bringing down a powerful Triad gang in Hong Kong. The full synopsis courtesy of IMDb reads:

Sleeping Dogs is set in a contemporary Hong Kong, which is split into four districts named after regions of the city. The game reveals the story of Wei Shen , a former San Francisco police officer who was transferred to the Hong Kong Police Force and assigned the task to infiltrate and destroy a Triad organization known as the Sun On Yee .The main storyline features two sub-plots: Shen’s balance between completing his police mission whilst committing crimes to prove himself to the Triads, and missions assigned by a Triad lieutenant, including assassination of Triad members loyal to other lieutenants. Shen’s mission is coordinated by Police Superintendent Thomas Pendrew , and progress made by Shen is reported to his handler, Raymond Mak. Shen infiltrates the Sun On Yee via his childhood friend Jackie Ma , a low-level Triad member; and his loyalty is tested by the Triad boss “Red Pole” Winston Chu . Other characters in the game include the head of the Sun On Yee, David Wai-Lin “Uncle” Po , Shen’s love interest Amanda Cartwright , Winston’s right-hand man, Conroy Wu , singer Vivienne Lu , and Shen’s girlfriend Not Ping .

Yen is the live action walking and talking version of Wei Shen and I believe that no one could bring as much to the role as the international icon would. He’s got an almost mythical quality to the roles he plays and the insane looking fights that compliment the game are tailor made for him and his breathtaking and jaw dropping battle scenes.

I digress however and we wait for any and all signs that this project will indeed move forward. It would be a travesty if this one dies happen and fanboys, like me, are chomping at the bit for some insane Hong Kong style theatrics and I feel a movie of this caliber would give The Raid films a run for their money.

In the meantime, there’s some ultra awesome live action Sleeping Dog short films that have been kicking around for years that gives action disciples a blueprint of what they would get from Yen’s live action film.

The first one is actually a 2012 live action trailer for the video game that was released to help promote the game upon its initial public release. It which features the amazing Brian Ho in the lead and even though it does suffer from some unnecessary quick cuts and edits, it still delivers a short experience of this world and what we would get on terms of atmosphere and high-octane stunt work from the most seasoned of professionals.

The second short film is longer and it was helmed by Clifton Jones and it stars Xin Sarith Wuku this time in the lead. Robert Dill did the stunt choreography and this one is just as impactful as the previous but with slightly better camera angles and cuts. Wuku gets ample opportunity to execute some you must see it again moves especially at the end when he delivers one of the fastest spinning heel kicks I’ve ever seen. Plus, just like the aforementioned trailer, it contains all the balletic, bloody brutality that one could hope for from a martial arts laced cop thriller.

There’s no denying that these short tastes of carnage are the bloody, brutal bone smashing goods and they serve as a template for what Donnie would do with his signature style action. Both Ho and Wuku do an amazing job as Shen but I think we all can agree that it’s Yen that we want for the feature length version so the powers that be needs to make this happen and if it does, do it the right way while utilizing Yen and all his martial prowess while crafting action sequences that will become instant classics.

Stay tuned and keep it locked and loaded right here hopefully for some news in the future on Sleeping Dogs as we are your destination for everything action in 2022 and beyond!

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