Have you ever watched a comedy martial arts action film set in the 40s? Me neither, which is why I was intrigued to watch Railroad Tigers.
Directed by Ding Sheng and starring the inimitable Jackie Chan, Railroad Tigers is set during the Second Sino-Japanese War in the Shandong Province of China. I must admit that it’s not a period of history I know a lot about, and I’ve never watched a movie set during that era – I also must admit that I’m not really much of a war movie person.
However, this film is more of an action comedy inside a war movie. And if that sounds like potentially confusing, you’re not wrong. Essentially, the story is about simple Chinese labourers that secretly mess with the Japanese occupiers by stealing supplies from trains: partly for patriotic reasons, and partly because it infuriates the Japanese. But there’s also a bridge to blow up, a whole host of colourful characters, and a lot of mishaps.
The plot’s twists and turns can get confusing – it doesn’t help that there’s a large ensemble cast, with too many names to remember, or that there’s a fair bit of mood whiplash. Still, the action is a lot of fun, in classic Jackie Chan style. The Railroad Tigers get into all manner of scrapes and hijinks, using their surroundings and environment to their advantage. The stakes are raised with steam trains – there’s something particularly fun about watching a fight scene take place on a fast-moving train. All of this is set against a magnificent backdrop – the filming took place in sub-zero temperatures in northeast China, which makes for some beautiful imagery.
If you can get past the sometimes hard-to-follow plot, there’s a lot to like about Railroad Tigers.