(Unrated, 2:04) In Mandarin and Japanese with English subtitles
Mainstream American moviegoers haven’t seen much of Jackie Chan in recent years, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been working. Aside from voice work for the “Kung Fu Panda” franchise, much of what he’s done lately has been aimed at the Asian market and focused less on the comic athleticism that propelled him to stardom in the first place.
The Mandarin and Japanese-language “Railroad Tigers” is a return to form of sorts in that it’s a lighthearted, would-be comic war film with some inspired Chan stuntwork. But there are neither enough laughs nor stunts to alleviate the tedium of this needlessly confusing and seemingly interminable half-hearted exercise that runs more than two hours.
The time is 1941 and the setting is China, where Chan is Ma Yuan, a railroad worker and leader of a group of ragtag rebels. They are intent on thwarting the advancing Japanese army. In order to do this, they have to hijack a train and get enough explosives to blow up a key bridge. (Chan fans will like that one of the rebels is played by Jackie’s son, Jaycee, and that the act of filming reportedly helped repair a fractured relationship.)
Director Ding Sheng, who has helmed other recent Chan films such as “Police Story: Lockdown” and “Little Big Soldier,” takes forever to get things going, and the cast is so big that, aside from Chan, there’s no way to get to know any of them.
Even purely as spectacle, “Railroad Tigers” is a letdown, as much of the CGI looks phony.
It’s not a complete waste of time, as there are a few magical Chan moments, such as when he’s fighting off and dodging bad guys on the top of a speeding train (a cool shout-out to some of his early work like “Police Story 3”). Chan, at 62, might not be as nimble as he once was, but what he can do is still very impressive.
There’s just not enough of his skills on display to save “Railroad Tigers” from derailing.