It was the darkest times in China. 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 captured the wounded General, hoping to use the enemy as his exit - By handing the General to the Liang warlord. Along the long and winding journey back to Liang, the two men at loggerheads meet with many amazing encounters...and the hatred between both is gradually replaced by camaraderie....
Yes, you know who you are- readers who have been staying in Asia a large part of their lives since the 1980s and grew up watching action superstar Jackie Chan's movies. Yes, you know what we are talking about- motion picture events like Project A (1983) and Police Story (1985). No, we are definitely not referring to his Hollywood outings like The Tuxedo (2002) and The Spy Next Door (2010). No, The Forbidden Kingdom (2008) doesn't count either. So when a decent Jackie Chan production like this comes along, we are pleasantly surprised. And it doesn’t even involve him jumping off buildings, being scalded by fire or getting chased by baddies in fast cars.
However, Chan has to share his screen time with singer actor Wang Leehom, in this tale about an old soldier who kidnaps a young general of an enemy state, and the unlikely duo end up on a journey which brings along with it an unexpected friendship. Of course, obstacles come in the forms of menacing enemies which chalk up this Mainland Chinese production to a total runtime of 95 minutes.
Marketed as a Lunar New Year blockbuster, this movie does not have the usual traits of a typical "no brainer" holiday picture. If you are familiar with the classic Jackie Chan action thriller, then be prepared to expect something different with this Ding Sheng directed movie. It is evident that Chan does not flex his chops as often as he did in the past. Is age catching up with the 56 year old actor? Is he concentrating on being a serious actor? Is he allowing his co star to take centre stage? While we may never know the truth, this movie is indeed a welcome change.
You'd be engaged throughout the movie, despite the overdose of dull brown sands and dirtily gruffly soldiers. The storyline has a charming edge, and without giving too much away here, let's just say that by the time the end credits roll, you'd feel a sense of bittersweet sorrow for the protagonists.
Production values are top notch, given the unsympathetic conditions in the rural locations of China. Be prepared to be treated to breathtaking landscape scenes. Chan's co star also delivers a decent performance as a haughty general who eventually loosens up in the face of harsh realities.
This doesn't mean that the movie is all serious and self important with life lessons. Chan provides the usual goofy entertainment, and you can tell he is really at ease playing this role of an ordinary foot soldier that has common human traits like fear, greed and pride. As a bonus, Chan even sings a charismatically composed theme song for the movie. It captures the rustic and pastoral beauty which is depicted between the two men and their wondrous surroundings.
And for those who miss Chan's NG reels during the end credits, you'd be glad to know that they are included in this production to please the fans who have grown up watching his movies.
This Code 3 DVD includes a 24 minute The Making Of behind the scenes featurette where you can see Chan giving some directions to Wang on set like an older brother, as well as the movie’s Theatrical Trailer.
The movie's visual transfer is pristine, and is presented in its original Mandarin dialogue.
Review by John Li
Posted on 9 April 2010