At the age of 62, martial-arts action star Jackie Chan spends half of Railroad Tigers hanging off the side of a moving train. At least the estimated $50 million budget makes it look as though he, or his stunt double, does. Decades earlier, when Bob Hope was approximately the same age, he starred in Boy, Did IGeta Wrong Number! with Phyllis Diller. Why bring up Hope’s career as a point of comparison with Chan’s? Because an unlikely parallel between the two men emerges by the end of this action comedy. Like that acidulous American wisecracker, Chan’s onscreen persona eclipses the character he’s meant to portray. Instead of planting his feet on the ground and pretending he’s fighting off the Japanese occupation of Manchuria during the 1940s, Chan plays directly to his fans in the audience. Heknowsweknow there’s a camera recording his every movement — so why bother faking it? When the outtakes and bloopers play next to the credit roll, Chan isn’t altered in any way. He’s just that comfortable having someone watch him all the time. In the end, Chan’s choreographed moves — the punch-outs in which he defeats his many foes —lack any element of real surprise. But the glint in his eyes burns brightly, a movie star’s charm that still makes him the standout player in a crowded, rowdy cast.
The film is not rated. Opens Friday at the Four Star in San Francisco and the AMC Cupertino Square 16.