It begins with a group of Chinese children visiting a railroad museum, a chalk drawing of a winged tiger, and a historical tale spun to enthrall an inquisitive boy.
In December of 1941, Japan expands its occupation of its neighbors to Southeast Asia, and into China. The railway between Tianjin to Nanjing becomes a key part of the Japanese supply line, and is fiercely fought over between the Chinese and Japanese forces.
Railroad worker Ma Yuan (Jackie Chan) and his friends have been harassing trains traveling the route, robbing and beating up the Japanese soldiers and officers riding the trains. When an injured soldier takes refuge in Auntie Qin’s yard, Ma Yuan and his friends protect him from Japanese patrols, and learn of the soldier’s failed mission. He was supposed to blow up a railroad bridge along the vital supply route, closing off the vital flow of supplies to the Japanese army.
When the soldier is shot by Japanese patrols, the group of railroad rebels vow to complete the soldiers mission.
Like most of Jackie Chan’s films, Railroad Tigers is chock full of slapstick comedy. It’s also got a lot in common with most World War II comedies in that it paints the enemies as almost cartoonish buffoons, while also transforming the somewhat inept heroes into brave and plucky daredevils.
Stunts and Slapstick: classic Chan
The somewhat goofy slapstick in the beginning transforms as the movie goes on, giving way to rapid fire funny action. Chan’s signature– quick, clever moves and resourceful use of anything and everything within reach to keep the action flowing– is all over the fight sequences. The only thing missing is more Jackie Chan fighting. More appropriately to the characters, the fight sequences reflect their simpler origins (and are still pretty cool), but Jackie’s brilliant fighting is usually what we’re looking for in films he stars in.
There’s also some bonus comedy between Jackie and his son Jaycee, who plays the son of Ma Yuan’s love interest, Auntie Qin.
Railroad Tigers has a lot of heart, and is a funny romp in Chinese history. I know I’ll be looking forward to when it’s released on DVD.
The film is in limited release in theaters now. If it’s playing near you, go see it.