There are two Jackie Chans. One is the Hollywood Jackie, who makes mostly abysmal movies with big breasted Hollywood starlets and This Year’s Funny Men, and who, we are regularly reminded, has poor English, limited acting range, and is short.
This is the other Jackie Chan, the one with ever expanding acting range, delving into character development like nobody’s business, and spanning the centuries with historic and modern drama. Both Jackies have that fast action and self deprecating humour that we love so much, but it’s the non-Hollywood Jackie that is making interesting movies (although I must confess to a fondness for Shanghai Noon and Rush Hour).
Little Big Soldier is the usual Chan mix of humour and action, but with a twist – Jackie is the old soldier who takes captive the young general (who is more than he seems). In the script Jackie envisioned some 20 years ago, he was the young general. But Jackie is nothing if not realistic, and perhaps the result is even better than it would have been. He is perfect in the role of the cowardly soldier who is adept at surviving on the battlefield by pretending to be dead – but there is a depth to the character that draws a portrait of a flawed, lovable, admirable man.
As the young general, American born Leeholm Wang took a break from his musical career that proved to be a very big break, going on to direct his own highly successful movie. He is a fine match for the seasoned Chan, who amusedly steps back and lets him do most of the fighting as well. As the two battle and outwit each other across China, It’s easy to fall in love with both of them.
The comedy is fresh, natural and provokes spontaneous laughter (which is more than can be said for some of those Hollywood lemons) and there is a rich cast of characters, from Steve Seungjun Yoo (a divinely handsome refugee from the South Korean Hallyu wave) and a bunch of bandits almost as hilarious as those in The Good The Bad The Weird.
Yu Rongguang – there you are!
As usual, you can play Spot Chan’s Bestie – Yu Rongguang – he turns up very early and doesn’t last very long, but would this be a true Jackie Chan movie without him? Chan clearly doesn’t think so, he even wangled him into Shanghai Noon. It is always a pleasure to see him- I cherish his performances with Jackie – The Myth, Karate Kid – and without – Musa, Storm Riders. More Yu Ronguang, I say!