Despite the reaction he often gets from internet critics (some of whom have taken to calling him "mook jung," which is Cantonese for "dead wood"), Michael Wong (sometimes credited as Michael Fitzgerald Wong) has had a fairly impressive career, with almost fifty films over nearly twenty years. Though there have been some flops, Wong has been involved in some very solid films, ranging from action (1986's Royal Warriors, aka In the Line of Duty, which is considered to be the one of the prototypical "girls-with-guns" movies) to drama (1998's Beast Cops, which won the Hong Kong Film Award for Best Picture) to comedy with I'm Your Birthday Cake (1995).
Man-Tak Wong was born in Shangdong on April 16, 1965. At an early age, his family moved to New York City, so he never learned how to speak Chinese. After graduating from high school in 1982, Michael (like many Hong Kong expatriates, Wong's parents gave him an English name upon their move to America) went back to Asia to try his hand at acting along with his brothers Russell and Declan (who themselves later became fairly well-known actors, especially Russell, who has appeared alongside Jet Li in Romeo Must Die). Michael seemed an unlikely movie star -- he knew no Cantonese (the dominant dialect of Hong Kong and its' movie production -- to this day, Wong has to learn his Chinese lines phonetically, most times through his wife), had no formal training as an actor, no martial arts skills, and perhaps most damningly, he was half-Chinese, a "gweilo" ("ghost man"). Hong Kong sets tended at this time to be very closely-knit places where bonds were formed after years of hard work, and gweilo outsiders were not welcomed. However, many Hong Kong producers realized that they had to expand their audience to compete with the deluge of Hollywood product, and so using English-speaking and more "western" looking actors came into vogue, and Michael was the default "poster boy" for this movement.
Wong's debut was in 1983's Invincible Obsessed Fighter, which would be his first and only kung fu film. His next movie, the aforementioned Royal Warriors, would be the one that created his on-screen image for years afterwards -- a slightly naive but tough and loyal outsider. Many similar roles followed (one of the most notable being 1986's Legacy of Rage, where he starred alongside the late Brandon Lee in his first and last Hong Kong movie), and it was not until Final Option (1994) that he became a bonafide star in the east. The "police procedural" film was very popular, and Wong's new tougher on-screen image (which included him chomping on cigars, which has since become a staple of his roles) seemed to sit well with viewers. The film was so popular that Wong's character was brought back for a prequel (1996's First Option) and he was able to launch a singing career.
With his good looks and prepacity for speaking in English (and willingness to poke fun at himself, as witnessed in 1997's The Wedding Days, where co-star Jordan Chan berates Wong's lack of Cantonese skills), Wong has become a staple for the Hong Kong/Hollywood hybrid action movies which now seem to be the vogue in Hong Kong, including Enter the Eagles (1998), which was the Hong Kong debut for another Bruce Lee offspring, this time Lee's daughter Shannon. Wong also had a starring role in the Canadian TV adaptation of John Woo's movie Once a Thief (1996), and then made his English-language debut the next year with Tsui Hark's Knock Off, where his utterance of "po kai" (a Cantonese swear word that roughly translates to "son of a bitch") is one of the few, and most notable, uses of Chinese language in the movie.
Even though he might not be the most popular actor among western fans of Hong Kong movies, Michael Wong continues to work steadily, and is drawing new fans both to his work and Hong Kong movies in general. He recently made his behind-the-camera debut by directing and producing 2000's Miles Apart, and is still churning out action movies like The Blood Rules (also 2000). For better or worse, and much to the chagrin of western fanboys, Michael Wong seems to be in it for the long haul.