Monday, February 27, 2017

Review of RAILROAD TIGERS: Homespun Heroics

February 23, 2017




We just watched a new Jackie Chan movie just about ten days ago entitled "Kung Fu Yoga" (MY REVIEW), and now here comes another new Jackie Chan movie in the cinemas. Fans of Jackie Chan really can't get enough of him. He is not running out of viable film projects even if he is already in his 60s. 

The setting is 1941 during the Japanese invasion of China during World War II. Railroad worker Ma Yuan and his group of village folk friends daringly undertake to complete the unfinished mission of a young Chinese soldier who was killed. Using nothing else but their wits, they plan to blow up a critically important bridge which serves as the passage for Japanese weapons and ammunition to reach their frontlines. 

Jackie Chan plays Ma Yuan, the oldest and the leader of the rebel group. This is more of an ensemble film so there was not much chance for Jackie to showcase his martial arts skills and stunts here. Jackie's son Jaycee Chan got significant exposure as Rui Ge, the driver of the trains. Actors Wang Kai, who played a sharpshooting ex-bodyguard Fan; and Hiroyuki Ikeuchi, who played main antagonist Yamaguchi, both cut dashing figures and had a strong screen presences. Ex-EXO member Huang Zitao, who played the young tailor Da Hai, also got to figure in some gunfights and even sing.

There were very many other minor characters so it can get confusing because we barely know anything about them except their distinctive faces. But anyhow it is sufficient to simply know distinguish the good guys and the bad guys to enjoy the film. 

I liked the historical setting of the film with its admirable show of unselfish patriotism among the Chinese characters. The Japanese soldiers were all portrayed as one-dimensional sadistic buffoons, and were made the butt of a lot of crazy violent jokes. Only Jackie Chan can get away with that sort of dark comedy. 

I liked the elaborate action sequences in the film, like that one where Ma and Rui were rescued from their cage, and of course, that whole final train heist sequence with all the tanks and bombs, even though there were obvious computer-generated effects. I liked some of the great-looking locations, especially the riverside scene with those picturesque tall grasses, which were used to best effect. I also liked the animated cards used to introduce characters, set up situations and illustrate elaborate plans. 

The print I saw in the movie house was dubbed in English, so a lot of humor got lost. I suppose there was supposed to have been Chinese dialog and Japanese dialog leading to misunderstandings due to lousy translators. However, since we hear both sides speaking in English, it did not make much sense that they were not getting what the other said, so these jokes failed to fly. 

Director Ding Sheng was also Jackie Chan's director in the sober "Police Story 2013" (MY REVIEW), which I thought was excellent. For this one though, I personally felt it was a pity that they had to resort to cheap childish comedy cliches which diffused the dramatic tension in the action scenes. Ding did not even spare the climactic fight scenes from juvenile foolishness, which I thought was a bad idea. I am okay with the lighthearted treatment of "Tigers," but Ding should have reined in the slapstick. 6/10. 

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