A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Railroad Tigers is a historical action-adventure starring martial-arts legend Jackie Chan, who came out of live-action retirement to make this movie set during the Second Sino-Japanese War. In the vein of The Dirty Dozen, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Bridge on the River Kwai, the movie follows a ragtag group on a risky mission to save their people -- or at least turn the tide of the war. There's quite a lot of war violence (though most of it isn't too bloody), including martial arts combat, explosions, weapons-based battles, executions, and military operations that have high body counts. Language is fairly tame, with just a few subtitled insults like "bastard" and "loser." There's also a little drinking and some drug-laced knockout pancakes, but no sexual content of note. Because the Japanese are the villains, they're depicted as either cold-hearted, cruel, or blind rule followers. The story's positive messages and character strengths include teamwork, courage, and sacrifice for the greater good.
What's the story?
RAILROAD TIGERS stars Jackie Chan as Ma Yuan, the leader of a band of misfit railroad workers and working-class villagers who resist the Japanese occupation of China during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945). The group -- which includes Ma Yuan; young tailor Dahai (Huang Zitao); Ma Yuan's daughter, Dakui (Sang Ping); and others -- dubs themselves the Railroad Tigers and usually manages small train heists. One day, wounded Chinese soldier Daguo (Darren Wang) shows up at the house of Ma Yuan's girlfriend/Dahai's mother, Auntie Qin (Xu Fan), the village scallion pancake seller. Despite his injuries, Daguo reveals that he's the last survivor of a doomed mission to bomb a bridge instrumental to the Japanese supply chain. Inspired by his sacrifice, Ma Yuan and the rest of the crew decide to go forward with the mission, even though they're being pursued by the ruthless Japanese military police Captain Yamaguchi (Hiroyuki Ikeuchi) and even deadlier female officer Nakashima (Zhang Lanxin).
Is it any good?
Chan is always entertaining to watch as both a martial artist and physical comedian, but this uneven, convoluted historical adventure is unlikely to please anyone but diehard fans. There are far too many characters who could confuse audiences by calling one another "brother" instead of their given names. Then there's the fact that most Americans know little about the Second Sino-Japanese War and won't fully appreciate the context of the movie -- unlike, say, the movie it's channeling, Bridge on the River Kwai. But viewers who are watching Railroad Tigers for Chan's martial arts will be rewarded with some impressive action sequences.
At 62, Chan is no longer at his physical peak, but he still has his comedic and action charms. It's unfortunate that the movie is rather forgettable and definitely not funny enough to rank among the best of Chan's canon. (Of course, the legendary star has been in more than 100 films, so that's not exactly saying much.) Moviegoers who just want to see Chan kick and dodge and flip his body may be better off waiting for something better.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in Railroad Tigers -- is it believable/realistic? Is it intended to be? What's the impact of media violence on kids? How does that impact change when consequences (like blood and death) are minimized?
What makes Chan so popular with audiences? Why does he have such a wide international appeal? Can you think of other similar stars?
Do you think mainstream U.S. viewers will understand the historical context of the Japanese occupation of China? Does the movie make you curious to learn more about the Second Sino-Japanese War?
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