China meets India in the latest action/comedy/adventure film from Jackie Chan. I enjoyed Kung Fu Yoga a lot more than I did the last Chan film I watched, Railroad Tigers. This time out, Jackie is a famous Chinese archaeologist (call him Jack) who has been contracted by a university in India to discover the resting place of an ancient treasure that was lost after a battle where a Chinese general and his army assisted the true rulers of India in an war against a hostile Indian general. The treasure is naturally being sought after by two sides; the bad guy is Randall (Sonu Sood) whose character is a descendant of the bad guy from the battle thousands of years ago, the good guys are Jack, two of his TAs, Nuomin (Miya Muqi) and Xiaoguang (Yixing Zhang), a treasure hunter/tomb raider named Jones (Aarif Rahman) and the beautiful Indian archaeology professor Ashmita (Disha Patani) and her assistant Kyra (Amyra Dastur). They travel from the ice caves of Tibet to the streets of Dubai to a mountain temple in India in search of even greater treasures. Randall seeks the treasure to claim power for himself, Ashmita seeks it to give to the Indian people, and Jack seeks it for its archaeological importance.
Jackie Chan’s films are interesting to say the least. There are are several different types now, in the past he did the classic kung fu, hardcore action films (New Fists of Fury, Police Story) , then he moved on and started doing family friendly action films and action comedies (Rumble in the Bronx, Rush Hour, Shanghai Noon) and recently he has done historical dramas (1911, Dragon Blade, Railroad Tigers) this was definitely in the realm of the family friendly action films, but not quite an action comedy. Sure, the CGI lion in the back seat of the car he steals for a car chase was pretty funny, and there was a lot of comic relief in the film, but there was more action to it. The hunt for the treasure leads to a big fight scene in the ice cave, and the discovery of the the first treasure. There was some double crossing as Jones steals the treasure to sell it to the highest bidder, leading to a big chase scene. The car chases were full of exotic cars and exotic scenery… and the CGI lion of course. Randall kidnaps Kyra and Nuomin, holding them hostage for the treasure, which leads to them being rescued by a reformed Jones and Xiaoguang, but the bad guys get the upper hand again and have Jack and Ashmita (who is not really a professor, but the heiress of the ruling Indian army who had the treasure originally) lead them to an even bigger treasure which leads to an even bigger fight and showdown at a golden temple. When the treasure promised by ancient prophecy turns out to be scrolls of scientific knowledge, the bad guys accept it and everyone dances! Bollywood style!
Now, I haven’t seen a lot of Bollywood movies, but do they all just end with people resolving the conflict and dancing? I guess if they do, writing the ending is a bit easier, but it seemed rather sudden. I thought quite a few things in this movie happened a bit to quickly as well. The team discovered the whereabouts of the ice cave on their first attempt, the bad guys hideout was easy to find, solving the puzzles to get to the right temple was pretty quick and easy, and then the final resolution that led to the dancing happened pretty quickly as I said. The film was clearly pulling a lot of things from the Indiana Jones stories, but even Indy didn’t get it right the first time, every time.
Chan himself was enjoyable, and while he was involved in most of the action he was involved in fewer of the fight scenes. He makes these films fun though, and that’s what I’m watching for. The rest of the cast weren’t as capable as Jackie, especially the Indian actresses. They were fine in the action scenes, but their acting wasn’t the best. The villain of the piece was rather one dimensional, but he did deliver a better performance, even though the script didn’t give him a lot to work with. And for a film titled Kung Fu Yoga there wasn’t a whole lot of yoga, even with Muqi Miya who is known as China’s most famous yoga instructor; she did deliver a good performance though. The script still was the weakest thing in the film, but I could get by that for the most part to simply enjoy it.
Bottom Line: I saw a trailer recently for The Foreigner with Jackie Chan, and it looks really good!
Railroad Tigers was an interesting movie, unfortunately if you consider Jackie Chan movies to be either hit or miss, this one was probably a near miss. Okay, first a little history (from Wikipedia) that I didn’t have before watching the movie, and that the movie didn’t provide.
The Second Sino-Japanese War was a military conflict fought primarily between the Republic of China and the Empire of Japan from July 7, 1937 to September 9, 1945. It began with the Marco Polo Bridge Incident in 1937 in which a dispute between Japanese and Chinese troops escalated into a battle. The conflict escalated afterwards. It ended with the unconditional surrender of Japan on September 2, 1945 to the United Nations allies of World War II. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the war merged with other conflicts of World War II as a major sector known as the China Burma India Theater. Some scholars consider the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937 to have been the beginning of World War II.
Railroad Tigers was about a railroad worker who leads a team of freedom fighters to oppose the Japanese in order to get food for the poor. This resistance is loosely organized and led by Jackie Chan. Most of the “tigers” have quirky personalities and characteristics about them; you’ve got the handsome one, the fat one, the planner, the elder, the lazy one, the strong one, the inept one, the crazy one, the young one and the female one, things like that. They mostly rob from the Japanese to feed the poor Chinese, but when they hear of a foiled plan by the Chinese Army to blow up one of their own bridges to cripple the Japanese efforts, they take on the mission themselves.
The plot sounds fairly simple but for the first half hour or so, I really had no idea why these “tigers” were doing what they were doing. I think the film would have benefited greatly from a little bit of exposition. Once I understood who was who and what was what, the film unfolded predictably. The characters didn’t really leave a memorable mark on me, and I didn’t really care about them as you think you would for a band of “freedom fighters”. Visually the film was very good, and the costuming and the scenery all looked sharp and authentic. The stunts and action were not as fast or frenetic as I would have liked, though the final fight on the train was pretty exciting and tense.
I think the film really had two things going against it. First, Jackie Chan is no longer a young man, and cannot carry the action of a film by himself anymore. A lot of the stunts and fights really seemed to be recycled spots from his previous films, but now they were largely being performed by Jackie’s son Jaycee Chan. Jaycee really looks a lot like his father by the way, and this seems like a real passing of the torch. The second thing going against Railroad Tigers I think, is that it wasn’t sure what type of movie it wanted to be. It took several confusing jumps back and forth between action and comedy. Overall, the film wasn’t bad, it was actually entertaining, but it was not memorable.
Bottom Line: I think the best thing to come from my viewing of Railroad Tigers was seeing the trailer for Jackie Chan’s Kung Fu Yoga, which clearly is playing itself up to be a comedy action film, mixing Chinese and Indian cinematic styles. I will definitely catch that one because there’s a car chase with a lion in the car. This film will not flip flop in terms of tone.