Director: Ding Sheng
Writer: Jackie Chan
Producer: Jackie Chan
Cast: Jackie Chan, Xu Dongmei, Wang Lee Hom, Steve Yoo Seung Jun, Lin Peng, Yu Rong-Guang, Ken Lo, Song Jin, Du Yuming, Yuen Woo-ping
Running Time: 96 min.
By Jeff Bona
In the tradition of Lee Marvin and Toshiro Mifune in Hell in the Pacific (1968); Dennis Quaid and Louis Gossett Jr. in Enemy Mine (1985); and Lau Ching Wan and Leon Lai A Hero Never Dies (1998) comes Jackie Chan and Wang Lee Hom in Little Big Soldier – one of the latest movies about two opposing warriors who bound together for their own good.
Directed by Ding Sheng (The Underdog Knight) and written by Jackie Chan, Little Big Soldier takes place during the Warring States Period of China and focuses on two rival survivors of a brutal battle. One of them (Jackie Chan) is a free spirited, nature-loving foot soldier who is all about peace. The other (Wang Lee Hom) is a high-ranking, no-nonsense general, who is fueled by honor and duty. Despite being from rival armies, the two slowly learn how to cooperate as they journey through a long road of unusual circumstances and deadly situations…
I was afraid Little Big Soldier was going to be another one of those epic war films (i.e. The Warlords, Red Cliff) filled with upscale battle sequences and thousands of CGI arrows wizzing through the sky. I know there’s a large audience for those types of movies, but personally, I think they’ve oversaturated the Asian film market, so Little Big Soldier was a breath of fresh air.
With that said, Little Big Soldier delivered what I wanted. I read a review where a critic wrote how it brought back memories of Drunken Master as far as Jackie Chan’s charisma and energy was concerned. I didn’t believe what I read and refused to be set up for disappointment, but the critic was right: Jackie Chan’s performance is definitely where the movie shines the most. The comedic element he delivers is a reminder of why he’s one of the biggest stars to begin with. The electricity he brings to the screen is amazing, even down to the smallest scenarios like faking his death, running away from danger or something as effortless as stepping on shit. To put it simply, this is classic Jackie Chan.
Little Big Soldier isn’t the most action packed movie, but in the context of being a perfectly paced film – filled with comedy, adventure and a little bit of drama – action enthusiasts can’t complain. When a martial arts sequence does kick in, the choreography is tight, well-filmed and totally satisfying.
Wang Lee Hom (The Avenging Fist) is perfect as the young, stone-faced general. Sharing the majority of sceen time with a big leaguer like Jackie Chan must have been intimidating, but he pulls it off quite well. Other co-stars include Yu Rong-Guang (New Police Story), Steve Yoo Seung Jun (Underdog Knight 2), Lin Peng (Break-Up Artist) and Xu Dongmei (she’ll make you melt).
With only two other films under his belt, director Ding Sheng is fairly new to the game. If Little Big Soldier is any indication of what Ding Sheng is capable of, then I’m interested in seeing his other films. However, Jackie Chan is notorious (and rightfully so!) for taking charge when another filmmaker is directing him; considering he’s the writer and producer, I’m pretty sure he looked over Little Big Soldier as if it was his own baby. Whatever the case, the result is pure entertainment.
Watch this movie back-to-back with Shinjuku Incident, and get ready to bow down to Jackie Chan all over again.
Jeff Bona‘s Rating: 8/10