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Little Big Soldier(2010)
Set during the final years of the Warring States period of ancient China, a cowardly soldier of Liang, who has captured a heavily wounded young general of rival kingdom Wei through sheer luck. Hoping that he will be rewarded and possibly discharged from the army, the soldier, who longs for peace and freedom, takes the captive along on his way back home. Their initial animosity gradually turns into friendship as the odd couple encounters danger in the shape of refugees, nomads, and the Wei armies on their eventful journey.
For more about Little Big Soldier and the Little Big Soldier Blu-ray release, see Little Big Soldier Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on August 16, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Jackie Chan, Leehom Wang, Rongguang Yu, Sung-jun Yoo
Director: Sheng Ding
» See full cast & crew
Little Big Soldier Blu-ray Review
Jackie Chan goes serious. . .most of the time.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, August 16, 2011
Films as disparate as The Defiant Ones and Midnight Run have played on the idea of a mismatched pair either literally or figuratively tied to each other as they make their way through a series of adventures, usually leading to a greater understanding of each other's characters. Something along that same line is in play in Little Big Soldier, a film that took writer-star Jackie Chan so long to get off the ground he ended up playing a much older role than the one he had initially planned for himself early in the film's genesis. Little Big Soldier takes place at the end of China's Dynastic era, when various clans led by warlords fought each other in a series of vicious and bloody battles which may in a way have ultimately led to China's unification through the law of attrition if nothing else. Little Big Soldier picks up after a devastating battle between two factions, Liang and Wei, where thousands of soldiers on both sides of the fight have perished. In fact only two have survived, a middle-aged Wei footsoldier (Chan) and a dashing young, though badly wounded, Liang General (Leehom Wang). Chan's character, dubbed Big Soldier, takes Wang's character, perhaps ironically titled Little Soldier, captive, deciding that returning a warring faction's Big Kahuna to his own tribe will be his ticket to retirement and a fat chunk of property he can farm for the rest of his life. Big Soldier is a conniving survivor, one who managed to make it through the battle by feigning death (with a Steve Martin-esque fake arrow protruding from his body), while Little Soldier is a valiant leader who can't quite believe he's been taken hostage by such a bumbling incompetent. The two set off strapped to each other as Big Soldier tries to make his way back to his home territory, only to quickly discover that a rogue element of Little Soldier's own tribe is on the hunt to assassinate him. That, in a nutshell, is the gist of Little Big Soldier, a film which may disappoint those expecting another Chan action-comedy fest, but which might be surprisingly enjoyable for those who come to the film without any preconceived notions about what a Chan film "ought" to be.
Perhaps only young sex goddess starlets undergo a more ruinous career path as they enter middle age than do action stars. When Chan started this project, his plans were evidently to play the young General who remained the only survivor of the Wei clan. By the time the film actually got made, Chan had migrated over to the aging Liang "grunt," a putative coward who actually is probably a more nuanced role by any standard. The General is a stalwart hero thrust into unaccustomed circumstances, but it is Little Soldier, a man who has managed to meander through life by avoiding challenge at every turn. Chan's goofy good-natured aspect finds a surprising depth in many sequences in Little Big Soldier, and the role affords him a rare opportunity to concentrate on something other than classic martial arts moves.
This uncommonly handsome film utilizes its locations in an often stunning manner, but it's the interplay between Little Soldier and Big Soldier which provides the film its most interesting aspect. As with so many films of this ilk, we get the slow evolution from enemy to tolerance to something akin to friendship, as both haltingly reveal bits and pieces of what motivates them to each other. What's sort of unusual about Little Big Soldier is that Little Soldier actually manages to escape—albeit briefly—from Big Soldier which sets them both on separate, individual paths, with the third element of the assassins trailing close behind.
There are a couple of issues with Little Big Soldier which, while not catastrophic to the film within its own context, might confuse or put off viewers who might think this is a typical Chan yuck-socky. In fact one of the issues is that the film does occasionally try to be funny—and succeeds fitfully—something that puts it tonally at odds with its overall serious, even somber, tone. The segues here are handled relatively well, but Little Big Soldier might have worked better without any comedic elements, since its basic premise and certainly its denouement are strictly dramatic. But the film also isn't really a traditional wuxia film in any sense, despite its familiar trappings. In fact the most bracing martial arts sequences don't feature Chan (though he does have a couple of great moments), perhaps due to the actor's increasing age or simply because of the role he's playing. Again, these are both situations where a lack of expectations or preconceptions will no doubt help the viewer see the film for what it is, rather than what they thought it would be.
This film was a major box office blockbuster in China, raking in the receipts and proving that there is undoubtedly life in Chan's latter day career no matter what vehicle he chooses to star in. Whether or not these audiences were all thrilled by the time they left the theater is another matter, and my hunch is at least some of them may have been confused, if not outright disappointed, that this was neither the laugh riot nor the action-adventure mayhem machine that so many previous Chan outings have been.
Little Big Man may not ultimately have been worth twenty years of Chan's efforts. It's a basically slight film that benefits from excellent performances and some really lush cinematography. But as a transition piece into Chan's later career, a career that simply can't continue to count on martial arts madness as increasing age encroaches, it may very well provide a unique and fitting portal into a new phase where Chan's acting chops can supplant his physical ones.
Little Big Soldier Blu-ray, Video Quality
Little Big Soldier arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Well Go USA with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.35:1. This is an often jaw droppingly gorgeous film, though it is one which filters much of its image, desaturating it at will and skewing a lot of the image toward the slate blue side of the spectrum. The location photography gives Little Big Soldier a truly epic sweep, and those locations bristle with fine detail throughout this high definition presentation. Depth of field in some of the outdoor shots across vast vistas is really stupendous. Close-ups are also filled to brim with excellent fine detail, from Chan's increasingly weathered face to some of the fine weavings which make up some of the costumes. While colors and contrast are variable due to the consistent filtering utilized, the overall film looks crisp and very precise. There is some minor crush in some of the darker scenes, notably the sequence in the cave about two thirds of the way through the film, but overall black levels and shadow detail are solid.
Little Big Soldier Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Little Big Soldier has two lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio options, one in the original Mandarin and the other an English dub (for the record there are lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 versions of both of these tracks). There are some marked differences between the two DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 tracks beyond the obvious one of language. The English dub is noticeably more robust in terms of low end and LFE, with a much more aggressive mix that also (to my ears anyway) is mixed substantially louder than the original Mandarin mix. That said, you can't really go wrong with either of these lossless audio options. Both feature stellar fidelity and consistent and involving surround activity. Dynamic range is also really well handled, where everything from the whipping of wind through the battlefield (with attendant panning) to the caw of a bird to the much more boisterous sounds of hand to hand combat spill through the soundfield with exciting aplomb.
Little Big Soldier Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Little Big Soldier Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Little Big Soldier is going to throw some Chans for a loop, but the film itself has a lot to recommend it. Its story is interesting, the two disparate but joined at the hip characters are very well delineated and are well depicted by the star duo, and the look of this film is sumptuous and gorgeous to behold. Where the film stumbles is in its odd interpolation of out of place comedic elements which are unnecessary and a dearth of out and out martial arts sequences which virtually all Chan fans are going to be on the lookout for. If you can get past those issues, Little Big Soldier opens a new era in Chan films, where the physical aspect starts to take a back seat to actual character development, and the good news is Chan is remarkably effective in an unusual role. Recommended.
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Little Big Soldier Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Little Big Soldier Blu-ray - July 21, 2011
Jackie Chan's 2010 action comedy Little Big Soldier has been slated for an August 23rd release courtesy of Well Go USA. The film, which was written and produced by Chan, features the actor as a soldier in 220 BC China. The Blu-ray/DVD combo pack has been listed ...
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