PictureLittle Big Soldier comes to Blu-ray with a vibrant 1080p High Definition rendition in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 widescreen. Detail is generally very good, clarity maintained throughout with little need for edge enhancement, even though you will notice some. Grain is also kept to a minimum, and the production seldom betrays its relatively low budget origins (except during the stylish but nonetheless fairly limited CGI sequences). The colour scheme is obviously limited by the fairly dour, often barren settings, but it still remains authentic and true, skin tones being of the sun-drenched variety and brighter greens and yellows shining through in a few notable sequences (Chan's dream, for example). Blacks are fairly strong although there is both a little crush and some sporadic grain that keeps them from perfection. Overall it is a solid, even good, but still far from spectacular presentation; one which probably does perfect justice to the material.
SoundLittle Big Soldier's original language Mandarin track comes in two flavours: standard Dolby Digital 5.1 and a superior High Definition Dolby TrueHD 5.1 offering. Dialogue comes across clearly and coherently, predominantly from the centre channels, with some support from the fronts. The effects are largely fight-based, whether the dull thud piercing of an arrow or the impact of the martial arts blows, and they offer up some nice directionality across the surrounds. Ambient noises are not as noticeable, but nevertheless allow for some decent atmosphere to be generated, the forests coming alive, and the clomp of horses' hooves never far away. The score perfectly suits the material, and closes out what is a decent if unexceptional aural offering, a little front-heavy but - as with the video - just about the best you would expect for this kind of movie. There are also optional English subtitles which are serviceable but far from perfect.
ExtrasFirst up we get a 12 minute Making-Of Featurette which features some behind the scenes footage interspliced with interview snippets from the cast and crew members, including Jackie Chan himself, who spends the majority of the time praising his co-workers. The 8 minute Behind the Scenes Featurette is basically just more of the same, albeit with b-roll footage from different scenes to the previous offering. We also get 3 Theatrical Trailers as well as a Photo Gallery to round out the extras.
VerdictLittle Big Soldier is one of the best Hong Kong Jackie Chan movies in the last few years, seamlessly blending the buddy-buddy theme that worked so well for Chan in Hollywood (Rush Hour, Shanghai Noon) with a rich setting during the bloody Warring States Period, a turning-point in Chinese history. In his more mature years Chan is taking on increasingly interesting and varied roles (at least in Hong Kong), this one providing room for him to be not only charismatic and likeable but also sombre, flawed and dramatic. Of course, fans of his classic martial arts antics will not be disappointed by the moves that he shows that he can still pull off, but thankfully the movie is not plagued by the trademark silliness that is often prevalent in his native productions. On Region A-locked Blu-ray we get decent enough video and audio, especially considering the relatively low budget, and a couple of nice extras, rounding off a disc which fans should be happy to pick up. Those fond of Chan's work, but disappointed with some of his more recent efforts - like The Myth or The Spy Next Door - should dismiss their fears as this is a far superior effort. Perhaps not quite classic Chan, it's the closest we've had to that in quite some time. Recommended.
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.