Film review: Railroad Tigers – Jackie Chan takes on Japanese army in wartime comedy
Third collaboration with director Ding Sheng features reconciliation with star’s son Jaycee, but pro-China rhetoric detracts from the usual stunt action
Renowned patriot Jackie Chan reaffirms his pledge of allegiance to China in Railroad Tigers, playing Ma Yuan, a Shandong railway worker who leads a plucky band of guerilla fighters in a life-or-death mission against the Japanese military during the 1940s.
The story of the courageous efforts of Ma Yuan and his gang to blow up Hanzhuang Bridge and cripple the Japanese war effort is Chan’s third collaboration with director Ding Sheng. Previously the pair have found box office success with Little Big Soldier and Police Story 2013, but this stands as their most ambitious project to date.
There is plenty of opportunity for acrobatics and elaborate railway-bound stuntwork from Chan and a team that includes former boy band star Huang Zitao and Zhang Yishang, as Chan’s daughter. With much of the rooftop action clearly green-screened, however, it falls to a legitimately inventive heist in an explosives depot to provide the film with its most impressive sequence.
Chan’s familiar blend of action comedy is undercut by a persistent line in wince-inducing pro-China rhetoric, as well as some jarringly violent altercations with the invading forces. Brushed aside with little acknowledgement of loss of life, necks are snapped, enemies are decapitated, and more than one joke made at the expense of seppuku (Japanese ritual suicide).
Darren Wang Da-lu, star of Taiwanese hit Our Times , features as the injured soldier who gives the Tigers their mission. But most notable is the onscreen reconciliation between Chan and his son Jaycee, following the latter’s much publicised drug bust and imprisonment. As one of the gang’s more proficient members, Jaycee is a welcome addition, at one point bickering with his father over their looks.
Railroad Tigers has some enjoyable moments, and even shares a similar narrative with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story . With little time given to developing characters or camaraderie beyond their unflappable patriotism, however, the Tigers are more likely to grind gears than inspire real rebellion.
Railroad Tigers opens on January 12
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