How many times does your idol, or someone you revere, have to do something wrong, or not great, before their exclusive status begins to slip? It’s more than you’d give anyone else, right?
Regular readers will have seen my review of the last Jackie Chan outing, Kung-Fu Yoga. In short, it remains a pretty bad film but my overarching message was that this wasn’t how I wanted to remember Jackie Chan.
The film wasn’t fun, it was funny and, for someone reportedly retired from action films, it was clearly a half-assed attempt at one of those too.
Well now he’s back with Railroad Tigers, produced and starring Jackie Chan, but written by He Keke and Din Sheng (Police Story: Lockdown, Saving Mr. Wu) who also directs.
This is the third collaboration between Jackie Chan and Din Sheng, the other two being: Little Big Soldier and Police Story: Lockdown. Both of which aren’t bad films considering recent outings, so hopes were reasonably high (who am I kidding, they couldn’t have been lower).
Railroad Tigers tells the story of a village, somewhere in China, at some point in history, and Japan are the ruling party. A bunch of villagers, led by Jackie Chan, do small, petty crimes on the railroad they work on, to hit back at the Japanese occupiers.
One day, a Chinese soldier winds up in his backyard and explains that a nearby bridge must be destroyed within the next four days (we never find out the reasons for the deadline), but his whole platoon have just failed with an attempt.
These bunch of misfits, comprising, amongst others, Zitao Huang (Edge of Innocence, You Are My Sunshine), Jaycee Chan (Double Trouble, Invisible Target), Kai Wang (Nirvana in Fire (TV), Love Me If You Dare (TV)), Ping Sang (Saving Mr. Wu, Detective Chinatown) and Jackie take the challenge up.
The problems with Railroad Tigers start early and don’t abate until much later, much later. Nearly every character that appears on screen at the start gets some kind of weird, animated ‘swoosh’ that tells you who they are, regardless of how large, or small, their role in the movie is.
Then we have the jump cuts and editing. I’m not making this up but at one point we jump about three times in quick succession with each jump showing you absolutely nothing to do with the story line, or what’s just been going on, or what’s coming up. Pointless.
This is a recurring theme for the first hour or hour and a half of the movie. You’ve no idea what’s going on as we are jumped here and there, dragged from one story to the next. There’s no cohesion, nothing holding it all together.
It loses you so much that you have no idea what time of the day it’s supposed to be, let alone what day. You begin to question if scenes that follow on from each other are the same day or the next day or the next week?
Given the story isn’t that bad and relatively simple, how it warranted an over two-hour run time is beyond me. How the first three-quarters of it are so dull is also something to behold.
It’s not all bad, thankfully. The final half-hour does pickup to show what the film could, and should, have been throughout. It turns much more into an action film, not quite a classic JC action film – there’s a lot more blood and guts for that, and people actually die, but an action film nonetheless.
Not to say this is done well, it isn’t, it still feels slow after the dirge you’ve just had to sit through to get here and by the time you get here you’ve all but given up hope.
The comedy is thin on the ground. The funniest moment is probably when JC and Jaycee are captured and being tortured. The Japanese commenting on how much they look like each other which sets them off arguing about who is the more handsome (they don’t play relations in the film).
And so we’re back to my original question: How many times does your idol have to do something wrong, or not great, before their exclusive status begins to slip?
I grew up watching Jackie Chan films. I’m not ashamed to say I idolised him, I started writing movies and wanted to get into movies in the hope that one day I’d be able to have him in something I did.
I’ve had the p*ss taken out of me something chronic over the years for my fandom of Mr. Chan and I’ve always defended him to the hilt.
But now? It’s with a heavy heart that I just can’t do that anymore. It’s fair to say I’ve not been able to for a while. The things he’s in are just terrible. And I’m not talking early JC terrible, I mean they’re just outright bad movies.