Michael Wong returns to the genre that made him famous and a new generation of SDU officers as the ‘tigers’ get to fly once more…
“You can call me Sir, or you can call me Stone, but don’t call me Gwailo!”
In the course of a career that encompasses over a hundred films, Eurasian actor Michael Wong (Wong Man-tak) began his career after Cinema City invited him and his brother Russell Wong (Black Sash, Vanishing Son) to work in Hong Kong in the mid 1980s. While Russell followed opportunities back home in America, Michael stayed the path in Hong Kong becoming an iconic figure (even if occasionally perhaps for not all the right reasons) in Hong Kong cinema. He’s starred alongside the lieks of Brandon Lee in Legacy of Rage, Michelle Yeoh in Royal Warriors, Jackie Chan in Thunderbolt, Chow Yun-fatt in Treasure Hunt , Jean-Claude Van Damme in Knock Off and played the villain in the pilot before returning in the final few episodes of John Woo’s Once A Thief TV series.
But his most identifiable role has always been that of the tough as nails Hong Kong SWAT team commander he originated in director Gordon Chan’s The Final Option. (Hong Kong’s SWAT unit is known as the SDU:Special Duties Unit and the nickname The Flying Tigers). Chan’s movie explored the world of the SDU which he had frequently touched upon in several of his earlier films. (Stephen Chow’s character in the Fight Back to School series is an SDU officer assigned to go undercover, while the finale of Fight Back to School 2 features some very stylish SDU sequences as Chow’s team goes into action against a team of foreign mercenaries). But The Final Option was more of a docu-drama, featuring stylish but realistic action courtesy of Chan’s then protege Dante Lam and was shot sync-sound when that was still a rarity in Hong Kong. It followed a young cadet as he completes his SDU training and is assigned to the unit commanded by Stone Wong (Michael Wong). Wong gets to deliver most of his dialogue in English uttering what seems to have become his catchphrase “You can call me Sir, or you can call me Stone, but don’t call me Gwailo!” (in reference to his Eurasian status and the fact that most people consider him to be more of an American than a full Hong Kong Chinese, and doesn’t speak the most fluent Cantonese!)
The character may have died a valiant death in The Final Option, but two years later Wong returns as Stone Wong in everything but name: this time round he’s called Don Wong in Chan’s sequel The First Option which upped the action ante as it pits Wong and his SDU team against a group of foreign mercenaries making mayhem in Hong Kong. Wong looked more rugged and delivers an epic moment of Star Wars inspired dialogue during the finale when his friend and former military colleague is unveiled as the chief villain, “Rick was my friend, a good heart he had, seduced by the dark side he was!”
Wong would make a misjudged directorial debut with the dramatic thriller Miles Apart, where he plays yet another SDU officer who – much like Wong himself – flies helicopters for a hobby and starred alongside Maggie Q and Richard Greico in Alfred Cheung’s HD thriller Manhattan Midnight. He returned as a seemingly resurrected Stone Wong for a series of low budget SDU movies beginning with 2002’s The New Option with Shawn Yue, followed by The New Option: Run & Shoot, The New Option: Confrontation, The New Option: The Final Showdown and several others. He even pops up as an SDU officer named Stone in Gary Mak’s SDU: Sex Duties Unit comedy with Chapman To & Shawn Yue, and as a corrupt SDU officer in Zombie Fight Club.
Wong has been re-marketing himself in recent years, experimenting as a ‘Big Band’ singer, he has had a number of pop hits in Thailand over the years, and recording the cult classic ‘Airwaves of Love” with a very memorable music video that opens with Wong or his stunt double accidentally damaging a brand new BMW before we get to see him fly his helicopter, woo a girl and sing some very memorable if incredibly cringe-worthy lyrics.
Airwaves of Love music video:
Wong has also been establishing the MW Brand which includes a limited 228 bottle edition of MW Michael Wong Glenlivet whiskey and various clothing and accessories. He has also been flying as a celebrity pilot for Hong Kong Heliservices who offer the Michael Wong Experience which allows you the opportunity to be taken on a private flight with Wong as your pilot and exclusive tour guide.
But it looks like Wong will be returning to the screen and his trademark SDU Commander character, with Hong Kong’s Shaw Brothers and China’s Youku streaming network announcing a new SDU/Flying Tigers series that will see Wong leading a new generation of Hong Kong SWAT officers into battle against the forces of evil. When given the right role and right direction, Wong has repeatedly proven he can step up and deliver on his potential, so here’s hoping Wong’s return to familiar territory gives us the Michael Wong Experience we want to enjoy!
The First Option trailer: