The planned theatrical release of big-budget Chinese war movie “Unbreakable Spirit” has been scrapped following allegations of money laundering. The film had earlier been at the center of the tax avoidance allegations involving actress Fan Bingbing.
The film, previously known as “The Bombing,” was originally set for an August release. That was rescheduled to Oct. 26 after the Fan affair became major news. But Chinese media now report the release as canceled altogether.
Aside from Fan, the film has a stellar cast that includes Bruce Willis, Liu Ye, and Nicholas Tse. Director Xiao Feng said the film had taken eight years to make.
“It is time to let it go,” Xiao Feng wrote on social media. “My sincere apologies to my crew, the distribution team, and all audiences who had high expectations of the film.”
The film’s distributors, Beijing United Exhibition Partners, and Qi Tai Culture did not respond to Variety’s inquiries.
The decision comes a day after Cui Yongyuan, the TV host who sparked the Fan scandal by posting what he alleged were double contracts intended to defraud the tax authorities, said that the film’s budget had been artificially inflated.
The film’s executive producer Wang Ding has claimed that the film did not exceed its original estimated production budget of $21.7 million (RMB150 million). But other sources have estimated the budget at $90 million.
Cui alleges that vastly larger sums of Shanghai pension fund money were washed through the production. “[Unbreakable Spirit] had more than $432 million (RMB3 billion) coming from unidentifiable sources. During production, $245 million (RMB1.7 billion) was extracted through dirty tricks. This is why the director and crew are unable to clarify exactly how much money has been spent,” Cui wrote. “We must boycott the film.”
“Unbreakable Spirit” has a history of financial woes. One of the original investors, Hehe Film & Television, pulled out after its parent company, Kuailu, was caught up in a box-office fraud scandal surrounding “Ip Man 3” in March 2016. Shi Jianxiang, Kuailu’s former chairman and the original producer of “Unbreakable Spirit,” fled the country and is currently on China’s international wanted list. Beijing-based Yuanhua Pictures took on Hehe’s part and kept the production going.