The combined works of Jackie Chan is a mixed bag. Most of his contributions to martial arts cinema of the ‘70s were little more than humorous kung fu yarns or fodder for that intangible subgenre of postmortem Bruce Lee actioneers known as “Brucesploitation.” As the ‘80s came to pass, Chan was not only able to emerge as Hong Kong’s quintessential action/comedy superstar — with such hits as Police Story and Armour of God — but even gained the attention of some Hollywood filmmakers as well. Unfortunately, his fancy American debut didn’t quite succeed, and resulted in such forgettable flicks as The Big Boss, The Protector, and those Cannonball Run movies.
Sadly, it took another decade in order for Jackie to achieve household status in the States, after which his film catalogue really began to morph into a mishmash affair; wherein we were treated to unjustly re-edited imports of decent Hong Kong titles and mind-numbingly awful US exports with annoying co-stars like Chris Tucker. Chan’s recent offerings have gone mostly unnoticed by this reviewer, owing to the fact that, well, frankly, I was burnt out on HK movies.
2010’s Little Big Soldier (originally released as Da bing xiao jiang) has received a number of favorable critiques from cinema commentators around the world. And, after taking a look at the movie myself, I am forced to agree with the others. Despite its titular similarity to a certain Dustin Hoffman classic, Little Big Soldier is a charming martial arts action/drama/comedy that opens with the aftermath of a brutal battle. One soldier, known in the credits solely as “Big Soldier” (Chan) has survived his regiment’s fatal confrontation with the enemy by playing dead.
He’s not the only one that’s still breathing, however — and a quick search through the stockpile of corpses reveals a general from the other side (Leehom Wang), whom our nature-loving hero promptly declares his hostage in the hopes of exchanging him for a place to call home. But delivering the general to his final destination won’t be easy, since this Warring States odd couple is besieged by various factions of marauding barbarians along the way, in addition to being pursued by the general’s younger brother — who is not looking for his fallen warrior sibling in order to save him, but rather to kill him so that he may be crowned king.
Filled with some great stunt work and a barely-hidden, ignorable message about peace or some such garbage, Little Big Soldier emerges as a delightful kung fu flick. Well Go USA’s Blu-ray transfer is a striking one at that, delivering some rich colors and contrast, as well as lively DTS-HD 5.1 and Surround soundtracks available in both Mandarin and English. Surprisingly, the English-dubbed audio mix is a good one for a change, and English subtitles are included for the Mandarin track. Special features included with this Blu-ray/DVD Combo consist of a Making-Of featurette, music video (with Jackie Chan), and trailers for this and other Well Go titles.
In short: Little Big Soldier isn’t Jackie Chan’s ultimate tour-de-force, but it’s a darn good piece of well-choreographed wizardry set to a fun (and sometimes touching) story.