I was really excited to see Jackie Chan’s latest Hong Kong movie at ActionFest. I’ll always order the DVD and see it before its American dub, but to see it in a theater! Little Big Soldier is amusing, but never amazing. There’s no ladder twirling, conveyor belt sticking or cashier slot jumping through, but it’s always fun to see Chan move.
The Soldier (Chan) wakes up on a battlefield strewn with dead bodies. He has a collapsible arrow on his chest plate so he could fake his death and wait out the battle. He manages to capture The General (Leehom Wang) of the Wei army. That could actually make The Soldier look good to his Liang superiors.
Little Big Soldier is basically an antagonistic buddy movie. The Soldier drags The General as a captive, the upper hand shifts, they have to team up to get out of greater danger, etc. All fine, as there’s been much thinner backdrop for Chan’s awesome work.
Chan is intentionally taking a backseat though. He’s designed his character as someone who can’t fight, which has never stopped him from making outrageous scenes of dodging attackers. He’s got moments but usually it’s other soldier fighting while The Soldier and/or The General look on and plan an escape.
When The Soldier has to, Chan gives him some cool skills. He climbs a tree trunk using a cloth. He throws a stone in the air and hits it with another stone, which pays off in a later fight scene. He parries incoming bolos with branches he finds on the ground. His battles with The General are played for bumbling comedy and their bamboo escape is funny.
Those moments are all very spread out. I’ll give Jackie Chan a rest. He’s been killing himself for us for decades, but that’s what Little Big Soldier is. It’s taking break, providing a decent show, but not one for the books.
Of course it wants to have more emotional and historical weight, because Chan really wants to do drama. The bond The General and The Soldier form is sincere and well acted, but typical of buddy movies. The film is about the Wei and the Liang battling before China was unified, and it reveals deep issues in the Wei side. That’s all fine but there are hundreds of other filmmakers and actors who can tackle history and character. There’s only one person who fits through a Vegas cashier slot. And that’s a stunt from an American movie!
We still get the bloopers in the end credits. The film’s most memorable action all had snafus, but there are still a lot of language blunders. Even in Chinese, they include flubbed lines, but at least you see Chan still push himself when he doesn’t quite take a beating hard enough and has to go again.