Film review: Jackie Chan struggles to stay on track with lacklustre Railroad Tigers

Railroad Tigers aims to attract younger audiences as well as long-time Jackie Chan fans.

Jackie Chan in director Ding Sheng’s action-comedy, Railroad Tigers. Courtesy Rex / Shutterstock
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Railroad Tigers

Director: Ding Sheng

Stars: Jackie Chan, Huang Zitao, Wang Kai, Darren Wang

Two-and-a-half stars

The recent career trajectory of Jackie Chan is following a similar path to that of another ageing icon, Sylvester Stallone, with whom he will reportedly shoot the film Ex-Baghdad in the UAE this year.

Like Stallone, Chan is largely living off past glories, with just fleeting glimpses of the action-hero persona that made him an international superstar in his prime.

Nonetheless, both have managed their careers in such a way that the lessening of their physical prowess has been compensated for through their use of comedy, charm and feelings of nostalgia.

Consequently, it is pretty easy to cheer Chan in Railroad Tigers, even though he mostly leaves the stunts and fighting to younger cohorts in this action-comedy set during the second Sino-Japanese conflict.

Railroad Tigers wants to attract younger audiences as well as long-time Chan fans, so the emphasis is more on comedy than action, with the fight scenes more of the Raiders of the Lost Ark variety rather than the gritty realism of Saving Private Ryan. Given its family-entertainment credentials, then, it is easy to see why it is being released over Eid.

The loveable, bumbling Chinese-resistance heroes led by Chan must blow up a bridge before a steam train carrying Japanese military supplies can cross it. As they try to do this, they use everyday items such as flour and fruit to fight the evil gun-toting Japanese soldiers.

The plot borrows heavily from The Bridge on the River Kwai, which is told in the comic style of Buster Keaton's The General – but it is nowhere near as good as both of them.

The story is painted in broad strokes. Every character is introduced through a cartoon that reveals details about them. We find out their name, occupation and catchphrase, but you have to be an amazing speed-reader to catch all the details – such is the breakneck pace at which they flash up on screen.

This is a movie that does not want you to think too much, lest you notice all its faults. It is a silly caper with the emphasis on action choreography and big set pieces – which would be fine if the choreography and CGI were not so lacklustre. China – like the rest of the world – still struggles to match Hollywood when it comes to blockbuster movies.

Director Ding Sheng previously worked with Chan on Little Big Soldier (2010) and Police Story: Lockdown (2013). Railroad Tigers is not as good as either of those films. It has its moments and is just about fun enough for kids, but is too banal for adults.

Railroad Tigers will be in cinemas from tomorrow