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.