Movie Review: Railroad Tigers

I’d heard that while Jackie Chan is considered a comedy action star in the U.S., he’s a swoon-worthy action star in China. Railroad Tigers (2016) has plenty of bits of comedy, but it’s definitely more action. Five out of five, definitely a good watch.

I saw this movie for two main reasons. First, I wanted something a bit more serious and action after some romantic series. Second… this is set in World War II, during the Japanese invasion and occupation of East China. A part of history I do not know in great detail, and was curious to pick up a bit more about.

Long story short: grade-school history in the U.S. about WWII is long on details about Europe, Midway, and fighting through the Pacific to Japan, yet rather sparse on anywhere or anyone else. On the one hand, so it goes; you could fill whole libraries with histories of all the various bits of that war, people have, and there’s only so much time in a school year. On the other hand… it means if you do want to know more, you have to go looking for that history yourself. And that requires having at least a hint that it exists.

I’m a little luckier that way than some because I had an interest in WWII aviation and had heard stories of the show Black Sheep Squadron (and later saw some episodes) set in the Pacific, and run across mentions of flying over the Hump to supply Chinese forces in the fighting. So I’d at least heard a passing reference to the Flying Tigers and knew there were battles, and therefore spies and sabotage, going on.

Railroad Tigers (tiědào fēi hǔ, literally railroad flying tigers) is set on the ground, on the railway from Tianjian to Nanjing, with people doing their best to survive and sabotage the Japanese occupation of their country. They’re not great heroes, they’re not gung-ho; they’re practical, slightly romantic types just trying to do a bit of damage and stay alive. Some of them have grudges… but that’s more a motive for determination than anything to angst about.

And then they end up with an injured soldier on a mission they have to hide. He’s too badly injured to do it… but there’s a bridge that needs to get blown up in four days.

They have no way to contact his army group. They have no guns, no explosives, none of the tools they’d need.

They decide they’re going to bring the bridge down anyway. How they do it involves sneaking, theft, enough heist stuff to fill a Leverage episode, and plenty of action.

It also has a somewhat different pacing from the action movies you might be familiar with. Instead of one long sweep to the Final Battle, it’s broken into a bunch of separate bits, like chapters, that all lead to the big mess at the end. From a writing POV, that’s a neat trick.

It’s a WWII setting, so expect some violence and deaths… but it’s a lot less gory than many such films. It’s surprisingly upbeat, in fact.

The movie is available with ads on YouTube. You can check out the trailer here.


12 thoughts on “Movie Review: Railroad Tigers

  1. re: history

    PRC may be screwing stuff up.

    Chung and Halliday’s Mao: The Unknown Story was one of my ‘fail roll to disbelieve, lose SAN’ books, and implies that Mao was rear area security on behalf of the Japanese, where Chaing Kai Shek was more about fighting the Japanese.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My Dad has studied many wars, mostly WWII, for years and is an invaluable source when I have questions.

    If you haven’t seen it, “Midway” is a good movie about the Pacific Theater during WWII. I’ve only seen the newer version, but my Dad has confirmed that both the original and remake are good in their own ways. There’s also a book called “And I Was There: Pearl Harbor and Midway Breaking the Secrets” by Admiral Edwin T. Layton that sadly isn’t in print anymore, but you can still find it in thrift stores.

    So like you said, there is information if you have the drive to look for it.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Louis L’Amour had some stories in the Pacific that took place in the same sort of time frame. I can’t remember the title of the one in my mind at present, but it featured an American, a Russian, and a Brit working to escape and cross the Himalayas. Very interesting read – sounds like Flying Tigers ought to go on the “to watch” list! 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  4. A couple of good, if disturbing reads on the asian side of the war are Iris Chang’s “The Rape of Nanking,” something that I remember learning about in grade school history that no longer seems on anyones lesson plans. “Shattered Sword” by Jonathan Parshall and Anthony Tully looks at the battle of Midway largely from the Japanese perspective.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve read the first; it was disturbing beyond belief. And the notes on the author, who after gathering all those interviews and writing the book, committed suicide… whoof.

      A human soul can only stand so much evil, even secondhand. Take that as a lesson to know when you’ve got to say, “that’s it, I’m outta here.”

      Liked by 3 people

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