Little Big Soldier(2010)
- RatedPG /GenreAction, Adventure, Comedy
After a long career of being typecast in Hong Kong cinema, Jackie Chan made a breakthrough in Hollywood in the late 1990s, where he proceeded to be typecast once again as an action hero.
In the last decade, as he has continued to kungfu-kick well into his 50s, Chan has put more emphasis on dramatic acting – not unlike Jet Li – particularly in his Asian films.
The premise of Little Big Soldier, essentially an odd-couple buddy movie set in ancient times, reminiscent of American cops-and-robbers buddy movies like 48 Hours and Midnight Run, may befuddle Chan fans in the West.
Here, he is not the most powerful martial arts expert, but merely a lowly peasant-turned-soldier. He is not fighting for justice, but an unwilling participant in war; in fact, bravery often eludes he who believes discretion (and cowardly ingenuity) is the better part of valour.
Against the backdrop of endless conflict during the Warring States period of China’s history, Chan plays a Liang state foot soldier who survives a battle along with an enemy Wei state general (Wang Leehom).
He takes the young man captive with hopes of presenting him to Liang officials and garnering a bountiful reward of leave from the army and a big plot of land to farm on.
Complicating matters is the belligerence of the less-than-impressed general, played with a stoic grace by Wang, and groups of enemy soldiers, who seem bent on rescuing the general.
The antagonistic relationship between captor and captive eventually leads to friendship, as one might expect, but the evolution is patient and measured; the pair of characters are nicely developed such that this eventuality does not seem forced or unnatural.
And there is room yet for light comedy and engaging fight scenes featuring the Jackie Chan Stunt Team’s penchant for slapstick humour mixed with inventive, fast-paced moves.
By the usual Jackie Chan movie metrics, that his films contain enough breathtaking fight sequences and bits of goofy comedy to leave fans satisfied, this movie has got the right stuff.
What elevates it beyond the ordinary are the strong turns by both Chan and Wang, the latter the more unexpected of the two. To put it simply, they make an engaging pair. Popular singer Wang looks the part as a general with an aristocratic streak; he is cold and dismissive and believable as a warrior and leader.
Chan, on the other hand, infuses his affable character with a country bumpkin’s homespun sensibilities. He is a patriot who has simple, yet firm beliefs, in being a good patriot and being an honourable man, who lives by a dignified philosophy handed down from his late father.
Chan’s character is also the representation of the long-suffering commoner – and a vessel for anti-war sentiment – who is subject to era upon era of upheaval during a turbulent period of Chinese history.
In this film, one senses that Chan relishes being the funny man to Wang’s straight man. If the Western audience can embrace this version of Chan, a reversal of roles from his Shanghai Noon and Rush Hour movies, then they’re in for a treat.
Even at this late stage of his career, Chan is not done proving that he is more than an action hero, and audiences the world over should not be denied a chance to savour the full extent of his talents.
About Yong Shu Chiang
Yong Shu Chiang, otherwise known as SC, is a freelance editor and writer. He reviewed movies for Juice magazine when he was in college, and was the resident film reviewer for Today Newspaper from 2003 to 2005. He has also reviewed movies for Prime Time Morning on Channel NewsAsia.
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