Director: Ding Sheng
Cast: Jackie Chan, Wang Lee Hom, Steve Yoo,
Wang Baoqiang, Yu Rong Guang, Ken Lo, Xu Dong Mei, Lin Peng,
Du Yuming, Niu Ben, Wu Yue, Ji Tao
RunTime: 1 hr 35 mins
Released By: InnoForm Media & Cathay-Keris
Rating: PG (Some Violence)
Official Website: http://dbxj.ent.sina.com.cn/main.html
Day: 14 February 2010
was the darkest times in China, when ruthless warlords waged
battles to satiate their endless aggression. Millions of lives
were perished, and those who survived had only two choices
- To kill or be killed.
The battalions of warring states Liang and Wei collided in
a bloodbath that lasted from dawn till dusk. Only two men
were left standing - A FOOT SOLDIER from Liang (Jackie Chan)
and the rival GENERAL from Wei (Wang Leehom). The soldier
could survive because he's an expert in playing dead, with
a device strapped on his body that could protrude an arrowhead
for added realism.
The Soldier captured the wounded General, hoping to use the
enemy as his exit - By handing the General to the Liang warlord,
the Soldier could be honorably discharged and returned home
to his peaceful life. The young General, though taken captive,
was always condescending towards the Soldier. The two men
were often at loggerheads during the long and winding journey.
Along the way, they encountered a mesmerizing but scheming
songstress, who drugged the duo and stole the General's jade
medallion, the only evidence of General's identity. In the
course of pursuit, they became entangled with a cohort of
refugees who robbed all their food and water. To make their
life even more complicated, they were stalked by a ferocious
bear. The odd couple was forced to collaborate in order to
survive one crisis after another.
Unbeknownst to them, Prince Wen, the General's brother, was
hot on their trails with his elite troops. What appeared to
be a rescue mission turned unexpectedly into an assassination,
with the prince desperate to secure his rung to the throne.
At the end of the incredible journey, the hatred between Soldier
and General was gradually replaced by camaraderie. A moral
dilemma dawned on the Soldier - Which was more important in
life, the General's friendship or the ticket to home?
Based on a story conceived by Jackie
Chan (JC) and scripted/directed by Mainland director Ding
Sheng (The Underdog Knight), Little Big Soldier heralds another
great departure from the usual Jackie Chan’s flicks
we have seen over the years. So if you are expecting another
one of Chan’s action comedies then Little Big Soldier
or LBS for short will surprised you.
The mega action star plays a drafted foot
soldier from Liang whose only wish is for the war between
Liang and Wei to end so that he can be discharged and go home.
The foot soldier is definitely no warrior and the only way
he came out of the war unscathed is he has the ability to
play dead better than a possum. Incidentally, he managed to
capture the General of Wei (Wang Lee Hom) who is also the
Prince of Wei by the way. Hoping to get a reward from the
Emperor of Liang and retire comfortably as a farmer, the foot
soldier decides to drag the injured General back to his country
and along the way met with resistance from bandits and Prince
Wen (Steve Yoon, a Korean pop star for the uninitiated), the
younger sibling of the General who is out to kill him to usurp
the father’s throne and assumed Emperor.
if the story is set in the warring times of Liang, Wei and
Qin, JC and Ding Sheng is not interested to tell the struggles
and battles between the countless warfare, unlike John Woo’s
magnificent Red Cliff saga or Daniel Lee’s Three Kingdoms,
LBS is more subtly confined to a 'smaller' story arc and concentrates
heavily on the relationship between two men, one from each
side of the tussle. Indeed, it takes a while for the movie
to build up the momentum despite some heartening exchanges
between the General and foot soldier and a scary episode involving
you are familiar with the Chinese’s quirky humour as
seen in past Feng Xiaogang’s movies or Ding Hao’s
Crazy Stone, you know Ding Sheng is definitely not one filmmaker
who will resort to slapstick or cheap laughs or even 'mo-lei-tau'
humour just to please the audience but right here, his script
blends perfectly well into JC’s usual Buster Keaton
inspired gags notably Jackie’s character who always
has a slew of possum tricks up his sleeve and a funny appearance
from Wang Baoqiang as a captured scout, it’s a true
cultural exchange for the HK and Mainland filmmakers.
for a 95 minutes movie, the recurring theme of 'going home'
for JC’s character gets a bit tiresome after a while
though, ironically this is the gist of LBS. The novelty starts
to wear off within an hour and it seems the only way to sustain
the story is to introduce a bunch of bandits to spice up the
story a little. Precisely this is where LBS start to wobble.
The characterization of the weak yet ambitious Prince Wen
is largely ignored, sure it’s the Emperor throne he
is after but it’s hard to know further other than these
minor details and the bunch of colourful bandits as mentioned
earlier sad to say is in purely for the action sequences.
LBS, Jackie finally showcases himself as a credible actor.
He is no longer the supercop or hero as we known him for decades.
In the role of the foot soldier, JC quietly submerged into
a character that survives on his street-smart ways, nimble
acts rather than kung fu chops. He is no longer the aggressive
dragon as seen in Drunken Master or Dragon Lord that engages
in prolonged fights with his opponents. Here he is portraying
an ordinary man who longed for a peaceful life back in his
country than facing confrontation and I must say, he fares
much better here than being over-sentimental (see The Myth),
over-emotional (see New Police Story) or over-dramatic (see
Shinjuku Incident) in his recent cinematic outings.
Talented pop singer Wong Lee Hom (almost unrecognizable under
all the grim and dirt) performance as the General is at best
passable. Perhaps the years of carving his skills in music
videos did help in his acting range. Then again, the role
of the General doesn’t require that much emotion or
expressions for that matter, same goes to Steve Yoon’s
whose halting Mandarin serves up quite a bit of distraction
in addition. Newcomer Lin Peng on the other hand plays a songstress
whose family is tragically killed in the war and again her
character is disposable and generates frequent unintentional
As we can expect from a JC’s Asian
production, the technical aspects are almost flawless. Majority
of the crew which handled the costume, set designs and visual
effects originates from China and LBS proved once again the
Chinese talents should not be overlooked. The lensing from
cinematographer Zhao Xiao Ding (The House of Flying Daggers,
Curse of the Golden Flowers) is marvelous to ogle at. Every
frame is nicely pictured and the beauty of each shot is undeniable.
Big Soldier is definitely a far cry from the usual crop of
Jackie Chan’s movies. It’s not a traditional crowd-pleaser
for sure. It’s a JC movie with a bit of laugh and adventure,
makes you ponder a little and closed with a grandeur poetic
end. Thus the impatient crowd and those expecting high octane
combat sparring and battle sequences are advised to avoid
signing up for Little Big Soldier.
(Watch how Jackie Chan transforms himself into an
actor in Little Big Soldier, other than that loyal fans of
JC might walked out disappointed)
Review by Linus Tee