Jackie Chan, to most of us, needs no introduction. He has been a fixture in martial arts films for so long, he can arguably called one of Hong Kong & China's living legends. It is unfortunate, however, that like many of his brethren from HK, his excursions into the American market has been hit and miss, some would claim more the latter than the former. In recent years, it seems that Chan has been satisfied to accept a "paint by numbers" project for Hollywood to cash a paycheck which he funnels into a project in China or Hong Kong.
Take for example two projects which should be coming out for 2010. There is the Wil Smith produced, China relocated remake of The Karate Kid in which he plays the "Mr. Miyagi" to a young boy played by Smith's son (i.e. "paint by numbers"). Then there is Little Big Soldier a film which, from the following synopsis and trailer, has far more thematic potential:
It was the darkest of times in China, when ruthless warlords waged battles to satiate their endless aggression. Millions of lives perished, and those who survived had only two choices - kill or be killed.
The battalions of warring states Liang and Wei collided in a bloodbath that lasted from dawn until dusk. Only two men were left standing - a FOOT SOLDIER from Liang (Jackie Chan) and the rival GENERAL from Wei (Wang Leehom). The Soldier survived because he is an expert in playing dead, with a device strapped on his body which protruded like an arrowhead for added realism.
The Soldier captured the wounded General, hoping to use the enemy as his ticket to freedom - by handing the General to the Liang warlord, the Soldier could be honorably discharged and return home to his peaceful life. The young General, though taken captive, was condescending towards the Soldier. The two men were often at loggerheads during the long and winding journey.
It is a shame that the Hollywood seems satisfied with relegating Chan or other experienced martial arts actors like Jet Li to two-dimensional action roles because it is obvious that Chan (and Li for that matter) are as interested in flexing their thespian skills as displaying their already well known martial skills. Recently, Chan took on a role in which he absolutely did no fighting whatsoever (The Shinjuku Incident) and Li will be doing the same in Ocean Heaven. And while the trailer above sells some of the action scenes in Little Big Soldier, something tells me that the majority of its runtime will be spent developing the Midnight Run-esque relationship between the Foot Soldier and the General, and that can only be a good thing....