After watching a pair of Korean movies set during Japanese occupation, the next movie I got to watch is incidentally a Chinese movie set during Japanese occupation. Titled Railroad Tigers, it’s about a railroad worker named Ma Yuan (Jackie Chan) who leads a small band of ragtag, train-raiding freedom fighters. Unarmed and outnumbered, they rely on their wits, use makeshift weapons like hammers and tobacco pipes, and employ the element of surprise. One day, a dying Chinese soldier entrusts to them a daring and dangerous mission that is critical to the war effort, a mission that they are unlikely to come out alive from.
Railroad Tigers is a better movie than the previous Jackie Chan movie I’ve watched this year, Kung Fu Yoga. In comparison to the latter, the former is more coherent, clear-cut, and visually good-looking. But it’s still a mess though. The narrative is muddled, and the pacing is distractingly jagged. Overall, I like Railroad Tigers more than Kung Fu Yoga (and even last year’s Skiptrace). But, ironically, the insanity of the latter makes it more notably entertaining than the former, though in the “so bad, it’s good” kind.
As an action comedy, it delivers its share of fun, solid action set pieces, and there are moments that got me genuinely laughing. But they aren’t ample redeeming qualities to quite make up for its flaws. And if somehow you are led to recollect the kind of action stunts, fight choreography, and physical comedy that Jackie Chan used to do in his peak, the movie only further suffers as a result.
In the end, Railroad Tigers still works as a nothing-better-to-watch source of entertainment. And it’s Jackie Chan. Even in the worse of movies, and even if he is no longer as great as he was before, his presence somehow still elicits a degree of delight, especially to those like me who grew up watching his movies.