Can Jackie Chan win with his foray into the revolutionary genre?
A symbol of Hong Kong action films, Jackie Chan is never short of death-defying stories. And in his latest film, Railroad Tigers, the 62-year-old kung fu giant again tests his limits: He gets onto a moving train to combat his enemies.
The scenes are shot in a frigid location in northeastern China where the temperatures are minus 20 C.
To create spectacular visual effects, two gigantic fans are used to blow at the actors, making their hair and collars move like they are traveling really fast. But in reality they are moving at around 20 miles an hour.
“I lay atop the train on a snowy day. But it felt like I was lying on a huge piece of ice. No matter where you fell (for action scenes), it hurt terribly,” says Chan at a recent Beijing event.
While Chinese mainland fans who are familiar with his action comedies may not be overwhelmed by the action scenes, they will surely be surprised that Chan is a fan of the old revolu- tionary productions, which were very popular in the Chinese mainland in the ’50s and ’60s.
During the event, he sang the movie’s theme song Tan Qi Wo Xin’ai de Tu Pipa (Play My Beloved Chinese Lute), a cover version of a 1950s original.
His old favorites, he says, include The Red Detachment of Women and The White-Haired Girl. Chan says he was attracted by these titles when he was young. And this may partly explain why he expressed interest in starring in Railroad Tigers, a loose remake of the 1956 Shanghai Film Studio’s Railway Guerrilla.
The film also marks Chan’s foray into the revolutionary genre, once a territory earmarked exclusively by mainland directors.
Among other similar blockbusters being made by Hong Kong directors are Tsui Hark’s The Taking of Tiger Mountain and Oxide Pang Chun’s My War.
Chan’s movie, set in the early 1940s, centers on a squad of ordinary people turned fighters who battle the Japanese.
The squad, led by a railway por-
ter (Chan), whose wife is killed by the Japanese, strike the enemy by attacking railway lines, blasting bridges and seizing food meant for Japanese troops.
Speaking about his plans, Chan says: “I hope I can make a similar quality film for global audiences every year.”
The film, which is set to open across China on Dec 23, will also be released to English-speaking markets, such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. The premiere dates for the foreign territories, however, have yet to be decided.
The film is the third time that Chan is teaming up with direct- or Ding Sheng.
The director earlier made two smash hits with Chan — Little Big Soldier (2010) and Police Story 2013.
Ding, who had earlier completed the critically acclaimed thriller Saving Mr Wu, says he did the film because he wanted to do something that was not as depressing as his previous movie.
He also says Railroad Tigers showcases the essence of Chan: It is a mix of fast punches, agile moves and comedy.
Referring to the old film on which the new one is based, he says: “It ( Railway Guerrilla) is a Red revolutionary classic, but (with the new film) we wanted to give audiences something new — with funny scenes and unique action set-pieces.”
For the movie, nearly 300 people built the sets, featuring a 100ton locomotive and a railway station, and around 1,000 people took part in the filming.
The choreographers also devised unlikely “methods” to get aboard a fast moving train: like jumping off bamboo poles and gliding from a tall building.
Speaking about the movie’s stunts, Ding says: “Timing is very important. If actors jump at the wrong moment, they could get stuck on the joint connecting two railroad cars. It would then be very dangerous.”
Typically, Chan’s films have always done well at the domestic box office, but as China’s movie market enters the Spring Festival holiday season, which runs from December to February, many industry watchers are waiting to see if the superstar still retains his Midas touch.
Chan has always struck gold at the box office on the mainland. From Red Bronx in 1994 — one of the earliest Hong Kong movies to be released here — to his recent hit Skiptrace, Chan has not produced a dud.
Chan’s latest film features heartthrobs Wang Kai and Huang Zitao — a big draw for female viewers. But with Zhang Yimou’s The Great Wall and Wong Kar-wai’s See You Tomorrow, also making their debuts on Dec 16 and 23, respectively, it seems Railroad Tigers will have a battle on its hands.
Hong Kong kung fu giant Jackie Chan stars in the latest film Railroad Tigers, a loose remake of the 1956 Shanghai Film Studio’s Railway Guerrilla.