I have to wonder — is there anyone in this world who doesn’t love Jackie Chan? Long before I fell down the kdrama rabbit hole, I discovered and was delighted by Jackie in Rush Hour, Shanghai Noon, and The Jackie Chan Adventures. So when my father-in-law recommended Railroad Tigers, you KNOW I had to check it out. Come see if Railroad Tigers lived up to my expectations!
From our friends at MyDramaList.com: “In December 1941, Japan expands the occupation of its neighboring countries to Southeast Asia. The railway from Tianjin to Nanjing in East China became a key military transportation route, heavily guarded by Japanese soldiers. Railroad worker Ma Yuan leads a team of freedom fighters. Using his deep knowledge of the train network, he and his men sabotage it, ambushing Japanese soldiers and stealing supplies to feed the starving Chinese. Although the freedom fighters have no weapons of their own, they employ whatever tools are at hand, including shovels, loose railway track planks and diverted trains. The local Chinese call the unlikely heroes the “Railroad Tigers”.”
In what other movie would you find Jackie Chan, Z Tao, and Wang Kai? And those are only the actors I recognize! I’m sure seasoned drama watchers will recognize many more faces.
Billed as an action-comedy, Railroad Tigers doesn’t go deep on any of the characters. This doesn’t mean they aren’t charming, though! The team of good guys are hilarious when they banter with each other, and the story takes on the feel of a good heist movie very quickly. (The plot synopsis barely touches the actual meat of the story, which is one specific mission that the Railroad Tigers take on to prevent the Japanese from getting any more power in their part of the country.)
My favorite interaction between characters had to be a memorable exchange between Jackie Chan and Jaycee Chan (his son). In the movie, they aren’t related, but have an argument over who is more handsome and who has the bigger nose. (Jaycee definitely inherited his father’s distinctive nose.) Their timing was brilliant, as was the translator’s reactions as he tried to explain to the enemy general what was going on. I highly recommend watching that scene more than once.
Ikeuchi Hiroyuki was the perfect scene-chewing evil Japanese general. He gave our fearless rebels a lot to work with as they did their best to undermine him and his soldiers at every turn.
There were a lot of scenes that took place on trains, and the setting definitely did not inhibit the acrobatic fighting scenes that Jackie Chan’s movies are known for. I love watching those scenes, and I absolutely loved watching the entire crew participate in the fun! Balancing on the beams in the warehouse, running across trains, clinging to the bottom of railroad cars (and making it look EASY) — I loved it ALL.
It would be easy to bag on this story for not being deep or meaningful. The theme may be one of patriotism, but first and foremost, this movie is a comedy. Taken as such, Railroad Tigers did exactly what it was meant to do, with the addition of a strong and meaningful ending.
I do find it interesting that it flopped in the US (39% approval ratings on Rotten Tomatoes), but did well in Asia AND with watchers of Asian dramas (7.9 stars on MDL). Obviously, some cultural elements didn’t translate well — or get translated at all.
The only thing I have arguments with is the frame story — it was completely unnecessary except to set up for a sequel. I really hate useless story elements.
BONUS TRACK: The Cast Sings the Railroad Tigers Theme
This is a MUST watch. They all have such good voices — and I loved the outtake from the movie at the end, when Z Tao forgot the words to the song.
Watch or Not?
The real question is will I take another recommendation from my father-in-law? He did pretty well this time around, so I’m gonna have to say yes. It was wonderful to see Jackie Chan speaking his native language and the massive chemistry among all the actors.
I completely recommend Railroad Tigers. If you’re looking for an action-packed comedy with a great ensemble cast, this is IT. And best of all, you can find it on Netflix!
Let me know, drama fans — will you give Railroad Tigers a try? Drop down in the comments and let me know!
Until the next train is derailed, I remain —
Karie the Maknae
Dramas with a Side of Kimchi