Jackie Chan returns for more action-comedy mayhem as the leader of a ragtag group of freedom fighters determined to blow up a bridge in 1941 occupied China. Rating: 3 stars out of 4.
A handful of ragtag freedom fighters take on an occupying Japanese army in1941 China in “Railroad Tigers,” the comically violent, third collaboration (following “Little Big Soldier” and “Police Story 2013”) between action superstar Jackie Chan and writer-director Ding Sheng.
The 62-year-old Chan, in classic form, plays Ma Yun, a railroad porter with a graceful maturity and easy smile that belie his secret role as the leader of train saboteurs bedeviling enemy troops.
Movie Review ★★★
‘Railroad Tigers,’ with Jackie Chan, Jaycee Chan, Hiroyuki Ikeuchi, Zhang Lanxin, Darren Wang. Directed by Ding Sheng, from a screenplay by Ding Sheng and He Keke. 123 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences (contains some explicit violence). In Mandarin and Japanese, with English subtitles. Pacific Place.
In an early scene set aboard a transport train carrying Japanese soldiers and confiscated goods (and pulled along by a gorgeous steam engine), we see Ma and his team knock out the bad guys and steal their uniforms.
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A couple of villainous officers (Hiroyuki Ikeuchi and Zhang Lanxin) are called in to get tough at a major station where Ma and company plot in secret. The ante goes up when a wounded Chinese soldier — tasked with blowing up a major bridge to stop the Japanese from further exploiting a railway line — turns to Ma to get the job done.
What follows is a post-setup hour of imaginative action and dazzling stunt work, all taking place on one of cinema’s great self-metaphors: a speeding train changing scenes every few seconds and heading toward an unknown destination.
A limber Chan and a game cast, including the lead’s grown son, Jaycee Chan, appear to be in real, constant peril carrying on inside, beneath and atop the speeding locomotive. While the film’s sometimes gritty violence is surprising for an action comedy, delightful moments abound, too, such as a scene in which Ma’s men argue over the proper key for a peasant song.
“Railroad Tigers” is bookended by scenes suggesting the movie’s events have passed, with time, into fable. That’s unnecessary: By the time the train arrives at its — and the story’s — fitting end, the film already feels like a legend.