The story took place in 227 BCE toward the end of Warring States Period after an all night bloody battle between State of Liang and State of Wei at Phoenix Hill. The army from the State of Wei was ambushed and both sides were completely annihilated. A middle aged foot soldier from State of Liang (Jackie Chan) and a young wounded general (Wang LeeHom) from State of Wei were the remaining survivors out of the three thousand casualties. The Liang soldier feigned his death at the beginning of the battle as he pragmatically believed staying alive was far more important than fighting in battles. He was a farmer conscripted into the Liang army to battle against the Wei, Qin, Qi, or other States that were a threat to State of Liang. Meanwhile the wounded Wei general was a crown prince from the State of Wei. He was knocked unconscious after proudly defended to upright the State of Wei flag.
As the Liang soldier was looting for valuables from the dead soldiers, he found the unconscious Wei general. He took the general captive with the intention of bringing him back to State of Liang for five acres of farmland and military exemption as a reward. Carting back the general to his superior however won’t be an easy task for the Liang soldier.
The first obstacle on their perilous journey was Captain Yu (Yu Rongguang) of the Wei army. He set stone and rock blockades on the main road. Once again, the Liang soldier outsmarted his opponent by pretending to be killed during a brief confrontation. It might seem that Captain Yu was rescuing the general; nevertheless the general now began to realize that he and his army were betrayed. He suspected Captain Yu was one of the cohorts and without hesitation he killed him. Subsequently, the Liang soldier took the opportunity to recapture the general once Captain Yu was ousted. The general discerned the Liang soldier as a deserter by the ruse he displayed against Captain Yu. Feeling guilty of his army being annihilated and ashamed being captured by a deserter of enemy soldiers, the general asked the Liang soldier to kill him. But the general was much valuable alive than dead to the Liang soldier in order to claim his reward.
Meanwhile back at what was left at Phoenix Hill, Prince Wen (Yoo Seung Joon) and his henchmen were searching for the Wei general’s corpse to confirm his death. Prince Wen needed to attest the death of the Wei general in order to be the next in line to the throne of State of Wei. Unable to find the corpse or any signs of the Wei general being killed in the battle, Prince Wen and his henchmen widened the search into the surrounding area for clues. It led them into following the trail of the Liang soldier’s cart.
The first night on the road to State of Liang, the Liang soldier and the Wei general stayed at an abandoned inn. Inside, they encountered a mysterious singing maiden (Lin Peng). She offered the Liang soldier and the captive general for rice wine in addition with singing and folkdance entertainment. Both fell preyed to the mesmerizing singing maiden when she drugged both of them. The singing maiden revealed to the soldier and the Wei general that her entire family vanished due to the war. Further, she was sold to court official as songstress. The singing maiden proceeded to take a jade emblem from the Liang soldier which was taken earlier from the Wei general and left both them with their horse.
The Wei general wouldn’t give himself up easily to be carted to State of Liang. Hopelessly tied up, he was condescending toward the Liang soldier aimed to attack at his character. But the Liang soldier held his ground by responded him with witty remarks. When the chance presented itself, the Wei general didn’t refrain from being troublesome and attacked the Liang soldier in an attempt to escape. However, the Liang soldier was able to get the upper hand and outwitted the Wei general.
Without the horse, the Liang soldier pulled the cart by himself with the Wei general on it, pushed the general on a makeshift toboggan, and carried the general on his back. He was determined to get the Wei general to State of Liang for his bounty. In the mean time, scattered of impediments along their way awaited them ranging from hazardous landscape, a hungry black bear, a mob of angry peasants, a band of marauding indigenous nomads, and closing in on their trail, the seditious Prince Wen.
The Liang soldier and the Wei general were often forced to help each others to hurdle obstructions on their treacherous journey and they gradually developed a coveting mutual respect. By the time they arrived at Daliang, the capital of State of Liang, the Liang soldier had no desire to collect his prize. At the same time, State of Qin merely conquered the State of Liang and they were pillaging the capital. Upon seeing the catastrophe, the Liang soldier proudly defended to upright the State of Liang’s flag just like the Wei general once did.
Little Big Soldier is Jackie Chan’s 99th movie and it’s his pet project in the works for over 2 decades. It’s not the usual comedy action drama that we’re accustomed to Jackie Chan’s movies, but it’s rather a war drama with a few hidden messages of peace. Little Big Soldier is a story of about friendship and humanity in the midst of endless war.
In the departure from proverbial Jackie Chan’s action comedy, he exhibits himself as a solid actor. His ingenuity with the script and showmanship shine through in Little Big Soldier. It’s ingenuity in the sense that neither the lead characters have names to portray them as natural adversary combatants whereas they don’t know each other. Inevitably, the two characters must go through overcoming their obstacles to pave the way to develop into friendship. Jackie Chan initially plans to play the lead role as Wei general but he settles for the more challenging acting as an aged soldier instead. His performance as the Liang soldier succeeds in bringing a coward character with conflict of moral values and self interests to prominently endearing.
Onscreen chemistry between Jackie Chan and Wang LeeHom are quite obvious. Both impressively submerge into their characters to show the background of the two characters and it’s delightful to watch their characters developed. While Jackie Chan displays mischief and kindness, Wang LeeHom displays upright and patriotic.
Just like other recently released period drama movies from Mainland China, the movie managed to find inspiring and spectacular landscapes such as underground limestone cave, canola flower meadow, and curvaceous Yangtze River. In addition, the soundtrack is quite fitting to show the imagery of the story. Especially, Jackie Chan’s humming the folklore song earlier on in the movie set the tone of the character of the Liang soldier.
Little Big Soldier offers occasional frisson of action but audience won’t see the typical of Jackie Chan’s action pack. Nevertheless, audience will find Little Big Soldier to be highly engaging and entertaining. Undoubtedly, Jackie Chan’s auspicious 99th movie is one of his best.
Jackie Chan … Liang Soldier
Wang LeeHom … Wei General
Lin Peng … Songstress
Yoo Seung Jun … Prince Wen
Xu Dongmei … Lou Fan Yan
Jin Song … Lou Fan Wei
Lo Wai Kwong … Guard Yong
Do Yuk Ming … Guard Wu
Yu Rongguang … Captain Yu
Wu Yue … Beggar Leader
Niu Ben … Scholar
Wang Bao Qiang … Scout Messenger
Ng Wing Lun … Guard Zhuo
Chinese Title: 大兵小将
Director: Ding Sheng
Screenplay: Ding Sheng, Jackie Chan
Producer: Jackie Chan, Solon So Chi-hung, Yuan Nong, Ren Yi Wan, Zhang Xing
Director of Photography: Zhao Xiao Ding, Ding Yu
Action Choreographer: Jackie Chan, He Jun, Ng Kong, Ng Wing Lun, Han Kwan Hua
Art Director: Sun Li
Image Designer: Sam Wang
Composer: Xiao Ke
Soundtrack: Jackie Chan (Canola Flower)
Filming Locations: Yunnan Province
Release Date: February 14, 2010
Run Time: 1 hour 36 minutes
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