The Chadwick Boseman-starring police action film “21 Bridges” will hit Chinese theaters on March 19, the first Hollywood action title to debut in the world’s largest film market so far this year. It was produced by China’s Huayi Brothers, as well as STXfilms, Los Angeles’ AGBO and MWM Studios.
The news comes just days after Boseman posthumously won the Golden Globe for best actor in a drama motion picture with his work in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” Chinese viewers paid more attention to the awards this year due to the best director win for China-born Chloe Zhao, which has sparked pride and nationalist anger.
“21 Bridges” is directed by Brian Kirk, who helmed episodes of “Game of Thrones,” and counts two pairs of powerful brothers on both sides of the pacific — Joe and Anthony Russo (“Avengers: Endgame”) as well as Wang Zhongjun and Zhonglei — among its producers, the latter pair as executive producers through Huayi. It made just $28.5 million domestically in 2019, where it was distributed by STXfilms, and has grossed only $50 million worldwide to date.
The thriller tells the story of an NYPD detective, played by Boseman, who hunts across New York for a pair of cop killers, only to uncover a huge conspiracy that implicates his fellow police officers. The theme of drug-busting cops is a very popular one in China, and both audiences and authorities enjoy a good crime caper where the baddies are taken down. One of the main topics of conversation this week on the Chinese web has been support for a proposed law that would see actors who have used drugs banned for life from the entertainment industry.
Boseman is described on the China poster for “21 Bridges” as “the king of film,” with more than one article praising his “god-level acting talent. The U.S. poster includes the tagline “The only way out is through him,” while the China poster declares in huge block letters: “Good and evil are hard to tell apart; break through the darkness.”
The poster and promo also prominently describe the star as “’Black Panther’s’ Chadwick Boseman.” That Marvel title grossed $105 million when it hit China in 2018 — nowhere near the takings, however, of the later “Avengers” films he appeared in such as “Avengers: Endgame,” which grossed a massive $629 million in China.