SFFF 2020: Our Review of ‘The Paper Tigers’

Posted in Festival Coverage, Movies, SFFF 2020 by - November 24, 2020
SFFF 2020: Our Review of ‘The Paper Tigers’

After the mysterious death of their Sifu, 3 disgraced disciples that have all fallen far from the Gung Fu teachings they grew up with as teenagers must now find a way to band back together to find out what happened to their master. The 3 pupils Danny (Alain Uy), Hing (Ron Yuan), and Jim (Mykel Shannon Jenkins) have also not talked to each other since an incident involving a trip to Japan decades earlier. Trying to track down the killer means reconnecting with their teachings, despite their decades older bodies not cooperating most of the time, each other and overcoming nemeses new and old including former kicking bag turned Sifu himself Carter (Matthew Page).

The Paper Tigers is a bit of a mixed bag of a film. The story of avenging the death of a master is as old as Chinese cinema itself, but moving this to modern-day middle America means adapting the story to incorporate modern issues like sharing child custody and work commitments. The story has issues negotiating all these obstacles but succeeds more than it fails due to its simplicity and humor. Ron Yuan excels in a mainly comedic role as his timing is excellent, which is more than I can say for the ham fisted and quite frankly poorly written protagonist role of Carter whose scenes had me mainly trying to avoid using the fast-forward option. Though the script does Page no help in the role of Carter- pigeonholing him as a one-note buffoon that outgrows his welcome very quickly.

The action is fairly well done though, with an accomplished sheen that exceeds the expectations from a first-time feature director. And it’s the combination of solid action mixed with comedic genius from Yuan and genuinely endearing performances from the other 2 disciples that ends up carrying the film.

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"Kirk Haviland is an entertainment industry veteran of over 20 years- starting very young in the exhibition/retail sector before moving into criticism, writing with many websites through the years and ultimately into festival work dealing in programming/presenting and acquisitions. He works tirelessly in the world of Canadian Independent Genre Film - but is also a keen viewer of cinema from all corners of the globe (with a big soft spot for Asian cinema!)
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