An older and more devious Jackie Chan transported back 24 centuries
Dec 27, 2012 (Updated Dec 27, 2012)
Review by Stephen Murray
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot.
Recommend this product?
Jackie Chan wrote the tragicomedy “Da bing xiao jiang” (Little Big Soldier) two decades before it was made in 2010, (nominally) directed by Sheng Ding rather than by Chan. He plays an old peasant forced to be a soldier who survived a cataclysmic (for both sides) battle by playing dead and then captures the opposing commander, a general (Wang Leehom, “Lust, Caution”) who was knocked unconscious. Initially, the solider has the trussed-up general in a cart, but a songstress (Lin Peng) drugs his drink and makes off with it. The rest of the journey is on foot and by boat.
It turns out that his captive is not just a general but the heir to the throne of the kingdom of Wen and that the disastrous battle was set up for the prince-general to die, so that his quite nasty younger brother (played by Korean pop star — and South Korean army deserter — Steve Yoo) could take the Wen throne. Not finding the general’s corpse on the battlefield, a detachment of the brother’s soldiers are hunting for the general, considerably complicating the soldier’s transporting back to his own country (the Liang kingdom) his prize captive (anticipating a reward of five acres of land and exemption from any further military service). There is also a black bear, going over a cliff together, and a band of barbarian nomads. The soldier and general get caught in a battle between the Wen soldiers and the barbarians, which provides the occasion for the main fight stunts.
The soldier makes the general see how hard on ordinary draftees the unending wars of the Warring States period was and makes him promise that if he becomes king of Wen, he will not again invade the
The DVD includes a 14-minute we all loved and admired each other so much making-of featurette, a music video starring Chan (not Yoo, the singer in the cast) and two trailers for the film. The on-set footage makes it look that Chan was involved in directing as well as writing and starring in the movie. (I find it difficult to envision him in the other main role even when he was 20 years younger; I mean I have seen Chan movies from then and earlier and his mugging would not have fit the role of the pensive general!)
The movie was shot on location in the mountains of Yunnan Province in southwestern China, so the movie is quite scenic (more than “Red Cliff” or "Warriors of Heaven and Earth"). The chemistry between the extroverted peasant and the anguished princeling is good. Both have more fully developed characters than is typical for Jackie Chan (plus antagonistic buddy) movies.
Like Zhang Yimou’s “Hero,” the end overtly celebrates the unification of China by the first emperor, the king of Qin. I think the endings of both movies are open to an alternative interpretation about the costs of unification, even for a regime that seems to have “the mandate of heaven.” Whether the movie is anti-war or anti civil war is also open to interpretation.
None of the three leads is a native speaker of the language of Beijing (Beijinghua, generally called “Mandarin” in English): Chan’s first language was Cantonese, Wang’s English (he was born in Rochester, NY and did not start learning it until he was 18), Yoo’s Korean. It didn’t look dubbed to me and was comprehensible to a native speaker of Beijinghua with whom I watched it. The DVD does provide a dubbed in English track.
©2012, Stephen O. Murray
Thanks (yet again!) to Mona for adding this DVD to the epinions database.
Viewing Format: DVD
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