Review: RAILROAD TIGERS 铁道飞虎 (2016) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Review: RAILROAD TIGERS 铁道飞虎 (2016)

Review: RAILROAD TIGERS 铁道飞虎 (2016)

Set during the wartime period in 1941, RAILROAD TIGERS revolves around a ragtag crew of Chinese railroad workers, led by Ma Yuan (Jackie Chan), who also doubled as freedom fighters to steal supplies from the Japanese military. When they discover a wounded Chinese soldier (Darren Wang) planning a major ambush of blowing up a bridge to cut off the enemy's supply, they volunteer to fulfil the seemingly impossible mission at all cost.

REVIEW: With the exception of becoming the first Chinese actor in history to receive an honorary Oscar, it was a polar opposite for Jackie Chan in terms of delivering quality entertainment these days. This year alone, his long-delayed SKIPTRACE which paired the ageing Hong Kong superstar with Johnny Knoxville was sadly a limp buddy action-comedy.

Now, here comes RAILROAD TIGERS. On paper, his latest action comedy seems like a good old-fashioned throwback to the '80s ensemble piece populated by recognisable HK stars with movies such as Sammo Hung's MILLIONAIRE EXPRESS (1986) and to a certain extent, EASTERN CONDORS (1987). The story, which tells a band of freedom fighters planning to steal the explosives and hijack the Japanese train to blow off the bridge, actually has lots of potentials. Besides, with the train being a major prop throughout the movie, you can imagine the kind of fun Jackie Chan could have pulled off here with his trademark acrobatic martial arts skill and stuntwork.

Unfortunately, RAILROAD TIGERS is almost devoid of Chan's signature action moves. Sure, there is a glimpse of his trademark during a rope-pulling scene where he and Jaycee attempt to steal explosives from a Japanese warehouse. But that scene is disappointingly staged with little verve and excitement. The rest of the action, including the opening train heist and the elaborate CG-heavy finale during the third act, barely raises a pulse.

Review: RAILROAD TIGERS 铁道飞虎 (2016)

Then, there is Ding Sheng. His first two movies with Jackie Chan in LITTLE BIG SOLDIER (2010) and POLICE STORY 2013 (2013) were both ambitious if flawed piece of works. But his third collaboration sees the director botched almost everything in RAILROAD TIGERS. First, his pacing is flat and uninspired. Even with all the manga-like animated snippets where he introduces each character is more of an empty visual distraction than a creative input worth praising for. Some of the humour, ranging from the wisecracking remarks to slapstick gags, are mildly amusing. But other than that, most of them misses the mark.

A majority of the characters, in the meantime, are either wasted or fail to leave a lasting impression. Chan's typically noble character is basically nothing to write home about, while the supporting actors here are largely forgettable.

If there's any consolation in this otherwise lacklustre ensemble, at least three actors are worth mentioning here. Jaycee Chan, who made a comeback since his six-month imprisonment over a highly-publicised drugs offence, brings a likeable charm to his playful character.  Hiroyuki Ikeuchi, best known for his ruthless performance as Miura in the first IP MAN (2008), delivers a gleefully over-the-top performance as the maniacal Japanese military captain Yamaguchi. Finally, Zhang Lanxin (2012's CZ12) is perfectly typecast as Yamaguchi's no-nonsense right-hand woman.

Despite a potentially interesting premise, RAILROAD TIGERS is a missed opportunity that made a huge mistake for toning down Jackie Chan's signature brand of action prowess.

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