The Paper Tigers is a true martial arts masterpiece (review) – cinelinx
Aging Kung Fu prodigies come together in a fun action / comedy that manages to find humor and a ton of heart in old school martial arts style.
I know I shouldn’t start this way, and make you read some more, but… .I LOVE Paper tigers. It’s definitely one of the best movies I’ve watched this year and something I keep thinking about even weeks (now) after watching the movie. As a longtime martial artist, so much about the film struck a chord with me, but it offers enough humor, action, and emotional moments for audiences without such a background to have fun. again.
Directed by: Tran Quoc Bao
Written by: Tran Quoc Bao
With: Alain Uy, Ron Yuan, Mykel Shannon Jenkins
Release date: In cinemas and on demand May 7, 2021.
The film focuses on three Kung Fu practitioners: Danny, Hing and Jim. They grew up together under the watchful eye of their Sifu (master) and were pretty much certified badasses known in their community and other schools, as the Three Tigers.
Decades later, the trio fell apart and now face their fifties and a host of other responsibilities. They basically left their Kung Fu life behind, but when it comes to news that their Sifu has been murdered, they find themselves reunited in their grief and on a journey to find out the truth about what happened, while also honoring her. memory.
Along the way, they find themselves immersed in the world of Kung Fu again, battling street punks, rival masters, and even enveloped in the crowds. In order to honor their Sifu, they will need to put aside their differences and rediscover the passion that once brought them together as brothers.
There’s a little more going into the movie, but I’m keeping it spoiler-free … even though there really isn’t much to spoil, it’s a pretty straightforward story, it’s a fun story to resume. Honestly, I walked into this movie without seeing anything, something that rarely seems to happen these days, and was blown away.
In many ways, Paper tigers looks a lot like a classic Kung Fu movie. Rebel followers seeking revenge against anyone who dishonored their Sifu? Yeah, that’s pretty much straight out of any 70s Kung Fu movie. The tribute isn’t accidental either, and it’s fun to see the movie lean into those tropes of. old school despite the modern setting.
It is difficult to identify a single thing that makes Paper tigers feel so special. Instead, it’s more of a combination of elements working together to create something unique. The story itself, while relatively straightforward, is incredibly touching. There is a great dynamic between the actors / characters that makes the humor and emotional moments stand out and feel authentic. All the while we’re being given some amazing martial arts footage that manages to stand up to any other action movie.
It’s pretty much the full package and it all works so well together that I can’t help but want more. Seriously, one of my first thoughts after watching the movie (which continues to pique me on) is that I would love to see a streaming service take this for a follow-up series. The interactions between all of the characters are so authentic and engaging that I would love to see where they go next and how they choose to progress.
I’ve spent the last few weeks trying to think of a good comparison for The Paper Tigers, and the closest I can think of is the original Karate Kid. Not necessarily in terms of history or events, but the central themes and the general sense of empowerment are there. You come out of the film feeling good about yourself and about the events, full of hope and with a strong desire to practice martial arts.
It’s even more impressive considering how the movie turned out in general. Director Bao Tran has been developing the idea for almost a decade, but when they presented the film to the studios, they wanted to do away with the Asian lead / cast roles. Wanting to keep his dream, they ended up getting funding through Kickstarter, prompting a new sponsor to step in to help it come to fruition.
In almost every sense of the word, Paper tigers is a true independent film. It’s a pretty amazing achievement, and the fact that it’s just plain amazing is a testament to the importance of diversity of voices behind (and in front of) the camera.