In my life, I have always made a habit rooting for the underdog. Whether it would be in the business world with a small company or at the NCAA March Madness tournament with a Cinderella team, I always like to see the unexpected. It happens in movies too for the most part, I routed for Rocky, I routed for the Indians in Major League (didn’t root for Rudy though, that was too much even for me.) But what would I think of the little soldier in Little Big Soldier? Well, we will have to see.
It is the year 227 B.C., battles are waged, and wars carry on. Land is gained, people are lost. However, we as the viewer are interested in one large battle between the Liang and the Wei that involves over 3000 people. There are those three thousand people that are soon annihilated by each other in an attempt to win for the other side. It is then when we join the action in progress with bodies lining the earth as far as the eyes can see. The ground is silent until we see one body move in the distance.
The body is of a Liang soldier (played by Jackie Chan) who wakes up and looks around. Apparently, he played dead in order to escape the same fate the bodies on the battlefield just met. He looks for survivors but unfortunately he can’t find any. That is until, he awakes an unconscious Wei general (played by Leehom Wang). The general stumbles to get up and then immediately runs into another Liang soldier (not Chan) and defeats him.
The general falls back down and the soldier (yes, Chan) comes over to tie him and tends to his wound. The soldier takes the opposing general as his prisoner and soon they set down the path. Further along, they run into Deputy General Yu (played by Yu Rongguang) of the Wei army who dispatches the Liang soldier easily. However, Yu meets his own fate when it is revealed that he was a deserter and the Wei general gives him his last rites before executing him.
But, the Liang soldier is not really dead. It seems that the deputy hit food rations (a ketchup packet perhaps) which caused the “blood” splatter. He ties back up the general and they continue. It seems that the general is worth five acres of land and exemption from military service which is just what the soldier wants. They soon come upon a small restaurant for food where initially they find nobody but a very pretty singer (played by Lin Peng).
The songstress sings to the soldier thinking he is the general who captured the enemy. She wishes to come along but before anything interesting can happen, the soldier passes out, apparently drugged by this siren. He wakes the next morning to see the general un-tying himself which gives an impromptu fight. The two get into it hot and heavy before the soldier is able to defeat the Wei general. The soldier runs off to his Liang home only to meet the other end of a gun. It goes off.
The soldier wakes. There was no fight and he is still in the little restaurant. The Wei general is still tied up to his post and not trying to get free. However, the Liang soldier does realize that the horse has been taken by the songstress. They do not have a horse and the soldier has to somehow transport the general across the territory. It also appears that the duo have a Wei Prince (played by Steve Yoo) and a guard named Wu (played by Du Yuming) are tracking them. What fate lies for the little soldier and the big general?
I had seen the trailer to this movie while reviewing another Well-Go disc and thought, hey that doesn’t look too bad. Let’s give it a go. Jackie Chan has always been solid for me and to see him return to making Chinese movies could be very interesting. Here he is pretty good, his mannerisms and the way he reacts to Wang are spot on. There is certainly some chemistry between the two. However, even the chemistry is not enough to overlook the confusing plot developments.
The first thing that is really confusing with this movie is the tone. The premise and title of the film would indicate that this is a very comedic film with action elements. In reality, this is a very serious movie with brief moments of levity. The comedy is there but it plays mostly a backseat to the proceedings. When a movie calls itself “Little Big Soldier”, you do not exactly open yourself to a serious film.
But that is exactly what we get. There is a lot in this movie in regards to honor and it is showcased up until the very last act which further downplays any laughs. The movie also focuses a lot on the chemistry between Chan and Wang because honestly there is not much else to be interested in. The main antagonists are ok at best and there is a whole list of supporting cast that barely makes a whisper in any sort of development.
The video is in 2.35:1 widescreen presentation at 1080p resolution. This film was made for about twenty five million which in Chinese terms is a fairly decent amount. The color is pretty good as the scenery is mostly desert. Actually, it is all desert. But thankfully there is a quite a deal of detail as one pair of rocks does not necessarily blend into another. Flesh tones are spot on and the period costumes seem to mesh correctly together.
For the audio portion, we get a 5.1 DTS-HD track for Mandarin (English 5.1 DTS-HD dub included along with 2.0 mixes for both languages). This review was done in the original language of Mandarin with English Subtitles. The dialog is well-defined and the subtitles are easy to read and match the flow of the conversation. Surround effects are used quite effectively and it has all the appeal of an action film without losing out on the very important dialog.
- Automatic Trailers: Shaolin, Legend of the Fist – Return of Chen Zhen, Kung Fu Dunk (almost convinced this will show up in my review queue) and Ip Man 2.
- Trailer 2:03: The first of two trailers, nothing is really special about either one of these.
- International Trailer 1:39: The second trailer, it is interesting that they do advertise this as a comedy when it never really gets there.
- Jackie Chan Music Video 3:08: WTF? This is for the song that Jackie Chan sings in the movie called “Rape Flowers”. It reminds me of a pop star in some Disney soundtrack singing with their headset on and acting like they are ridiculously into the music mixed in with clips from the movie. Bizarre.
- Making Of 14:05: A standard making of featurette which basically lets us know that Jackie starred, wrote and did all of the action choreography in this movie. The film was in development for twenty years. The featurette mixes in other little facts in short little clips which makes it difficult to keep me interested.
- DVD: A DVD of the film is also included for those who need the capability.
Perhaps, I am too used to the American movie version of Jackie Chan. Maybe I just don’t remember correctly some of his earlier Chinese movie work where he wasn’t always trying to play up a movie for deadpan comedy. But when you name a movie with the implications that it is going to be a comedy, you expect nothing less. Unfortunately what we get here is a movie with a very serious tone. Jackie Chan does put on a great performance, but the writing and supporting characters never quite get there.
The disc is a decent effort with above average video and audio and some mild extras to educate the viewer about the exhausting process this movie went through. I did appreciate the chemistry between the two lead characters but in the end I can’t find myself giving a recommendation to this flic. If you are a Jackie Chan diehard, I can see how you would pick this up (since he does just about everything in the movie). Just be forewarned that if you look beyond his performance, you won’t see much else.