RailRoad Tigers – An onscreen train-wreck
Movie Review by Sreedevi Jayarajan (Rocheston Certified Movie Critic)
Set in the winter of 1941 with the Second Sino-Japanese war as the backdrop, “Railroad Tigers” tracks the activities of a Chinese gang of railway workers who steal from trains carrying Japanese supplies, to feed the people . Trains are the conduit used by the Japanese invaders to transport essential supplies through China. Ma Yuan (Jackie Chan) leads the group of saboteurs who call themselves Tigers. Their ultimate mission is to blow up a bridge to cut off supplies to the Japanese invaders and ruin their war plans.
Despite being bright and colourful with great visuals except in the climax, the narrative seems to have a sense of unsteadiness throughout the running time of the film. Although, this has been a consistent trait in Director Ding Sheng’s films, this shakiness in sequences massively contributes to deterring audiences from completely immersing in the narrative. Nothing significant happens in the first half-an-hour of the flick and the audience are left wondering when the plot will take off. The first robbery scene in the train is built up at a good pace to excite viewers, and then dumped like a hot potato as it ends too soon. Infact, in many scenes, the screen abruptly fades to black just when the dialogue ends. This editing gives the scenes an unfinished feel.
As for Jackie Chan, embodying Ma Yuan is a walk in the park and he does it with elegance and finesse. Chan’s standard stunt sequences too have been tuned differently, taking into account his age. The 62-year-old actor, this time, enamors his audiences with more of elegant dodging and side stepping of blows. However, he does it with such ease and flair that one can’t help but admire his deftness on screen. The stunts were careful strategised and choreographed to ensure that the audiences don’t feel Chan’s age limitations on screen.
The humor and dialogue in the movie is heavily reminiscent of Buster Keaton’s The General, the 1926 train based silent comedy, reminding audience of how Keaton remains one of Jackie Chan’s biggest inspirations in Cinema. Although a lot of the humor fails to amuse, some cleverly choreographed slapstick sequences, like the one where Jackie and Jaycee Chan (yes, his son features in the film) hang on ropes to steal explosives from a Japanese warehouse, salvages the “comedy” in the action-comedy.
Ding Sheng however drops the ball hardest when it comes to characterisation. The characters are so shabbily sketched that even the argument that an action-comedy does not require deeply sketched characters fails to convince. The Japanese are portrayed in the most stereotypical “bad guys in action-comedy” manner and do not incite any strong emotions in the audience. Coupled with terrible acting showcased by Yuko (played by Zhang Lanxin), the Japanese lady officer, most characters (and the actors who have played them) fail to inspire throughout the film.
Finally, the climax action sequence of the film, where we finally see Jackie Chan in his old avatar, could have been one of the best in 2016. However, half-hearted CGI kills all life from the nail-biting and wonderfully conceived final scenes. With just a few more millions invested in CGI, the movie could have, quite possible, stood out for its stunning action sequences.
With the release of his third project, Ding Sheng proves, with the few streaks of brilliance seen in the film, that he does have potential. However, the director has a long way to go before mastering the art of making movies that is anywhere close to the Hong Kong action flicks of the 70s.