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Review: WW II action comedy ‘Railroad Tigers’ makes one yearn for the Jackie Chan of old

‘Railroad Tigers’
Jackie Chan, left, and Alan Ng in the 1940s-set film “Railroad Tigers.”
(Well Go USA)

The new Jackie Chan action comedy “Railroad Tigers” — about ragtag Chinese thieves taking on the Japanese Imperial army — is set in the early 1940s, but you wish it had been made in 1992, at the height of the Hong Kong superstar’s agility and comic prowess, and when his movies were last consistently good.

That old feeling is what you want from “Railroad Tigers,” but instead of a grand lark of fast fists and derring-do, we get a lumbering, choppy voyage of minimal excitement. Chan plays rail worker Mu Yuan, who spearheads the occasional train heist against the Japanese with his scrappy gang of maintenance workers (and one sharpshooting tailor), until the chance to take on a greater mission presents itself: blow up a bridge on a strategic supply route for the Japanese forces.

Director Ding Sheng can barely harness the sweep of this endeavor, which boasts big sets and remote locations but is routinely weighed down with cheap visual effects and shoddy assemblage. Even the charismatic twinkle in Chan’s eye that has had to compensate for his reduced stunt craft, is rarely in evidence.

One comic bit with him, his real-life son, Jaycee (who plays one of the tigers) and a makeshift pulley manages to recreate some classically silly Chan magic.  But the cartoonishness is mostly charmless, and the drawn-out climax is more indicative of today’s overkill action zeitgeist than any real affection for cinema’s long history of spectacular train adventures.

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‘Railroad Tigers’

In Mandarin with English subtitles

Not rated

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Running time: 2 hours, 5 minutes

Playing: AMC Atlantic Times Square 14. Monterey Park; AMC Rolling Hills 20, Torrance; AMC Orange 30

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