Jackie Chan and Ding Sheng reunite for this World War II-set action-comedy that brings both a serious tone and adds some slapstick style humor in some of the film’s stunt sequences.
It is the year 1941. Japan has occupied China and has taken control of its railways. However, a small band of regular folk have banded together to form a rebel team known as the Railroad Tigers, who serve as Robin Hoods of the railways. They are led by local head porter Ma Yuan and the team consists of tailor Dahai, porter Xiaohu, and maintenance workers Rui and Dakui. When they succeed in their latest mission and give their signature of drawing a winged tiger on the body of the guards, this angers Japanese commander Yamashita, who vows to track down and put an end to the Tigers.
When Daguo, a soldier of the Eighth Route Army, is injured in an attempt to escape to Japanese forces, he is found by Ma Yuan and his daughter Xing’Er. They hide him and Daguo tells Ma Yuan that in order to stop the Japanese forces, they will have to find a way to prevent them from entering town by blowing up a local bridge. When Daguo sacrifices himself the following day in an effort to save Ma Yuan, the fearless porter knows he must assemble the team and find reinforcements. However, before they can go on what is to be the Tigers’ biggest mission to date, they will have to achieve the impossible but with the Japanese hot on their trail, it is most likely that it will be easier said than done.
While Jackie Chan has mentioned that was done with his trademark style of action extravaganzas, with this latest effort from Little Big Soldier and Police Story: Lockdown helmer Ding Sheng, Chan returns to the historical action-comedy with this film. The setting is World War II when the Japanese occupied China, causing the second Sino-Japanese War. Chan plays the leader of a group of merry men (yes, pun intended) who go robbing trains in an effort to help their fellow Chinese. The trend of China vs. Japan in films has been done to death yes, but where this was seen mainly in kung fu films, this is quite a novel trend that allows Chan and company to serve as Robin Hoods with a taste of The Dirty Dozen perhaps.
Chan’s leader is both serious and at times, funny. What’s even great is that he has a team that provides ample support including Huang Zitao as a local tailor who proves to be a worthy second in command with Wang Kai joining the team late as former soldier turned noodle shop owner Fan Chuan, who starts out as a pacifist but his marksman skills are a necessity for the team. JC Stunt Team member Alan Ng makes the most of his time as Xiaohu while Sang Ping is the big softie Dakui.
The big surprise is Jackie’s own son Jaycee, who makes a welcome return after his well-publicized personal issues. Like Sammy Hung in the recently released Call of Heroes, Jaycee’s Rui, while given minor billing, proves to play a very pivotal part as team member Rui and well, it is clear Jackie did the right thing because working with his father gives Jaycee a chance to some aspect, follow in his father’s footsteps in terms of humor. A pivotal second act scene shows the duo attempting to play each other off and this is one father and son team that has great chemistry together.
Ip Man’s Hiroyuki Ikeuchi brings some unexpected humor to the role of the film’s primary antagonist, Yamashita. While mostly serious in nature, he does swerve in character and shows he can do comedy. In one hilarious scene, Yamashita attempts to get intel from a local shop owner on the whereabouts of the Tigers and does the unthinkable for its time period, but Ikeuchi brings some hysterics in the scene. Zhang Lanxin, whose appeared with Chan in Chinese Zodiac and Skiptrace, plays one of Ikeuchi’s officers and does it with no remorse towards anyone who gets on her bad side.
He Jun, the co-leader of the JC Stunt Team, choreographed the film’s action sequences and not only brings Jackie’s style back to some aspect, but adds a bit of classic slapstick to some of the film’s pivotal action scenes. Jackie and Jaycee Chan again work well together in an action scene with Wang Kai bringing his skills to the plate. Zhang doesn’t really get a chance to showcase her taekwondo skills like her previous efforts but does brings some sternness to her villainess role with Jaycee as her main adversary in the film’s final action sequence. Like some of Chan’s previous efforts, there is a prologue and epilogue set in the present day with a surprise cameo appearance.
Railroad Tigers may not be a quintessential Jackie Chan film, but it is still a fun and wild ride into a group of unlikely heroes with Jaycee Chan in a pretty well done return performance and some fun action scenes that meld the seriousness of the war and some good ol’ slapstick humor.
WFG RATING: B+
Well Go USA Films presents a Sparkle Roll Media production in association with Shanghai Film Group and Beijing Going Zoom Media Co. Ltd. Director: Ding Sheng. Producers: Jackie Chan,
Ren Zhong-Lun, Zhou Mao-Fei, and Zhao Lei. Writers: He Ke-Ke and Ding Sheng. Cinematography: Ding Yu. Editing: Ding Sheng.
Cast: Jackie Chan, Huang Zitao, Wang Kai, Hiroyuki Ikeuchi, Sang Ping, Alan Ng, Jaycee Chan, Xu Fan, Darren Wang, Koji Yano, Zhang Lanxin.