Review: Pass the ibuprofen — ‘The Paper Tigers’ may be over the hill but deliver a good time
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“The Paper Tigers” answers the particular burning question, “What if the Karate Kid got previous and out of shape? ” Well, middle-aged, but definitely rusty as hell.
Three teenagers receive private kung-fu instruction from bona fide master “Sifu” Cheng (Roger Yuan) and become the kings of the local martial-arts scene. On the brink of attaining widespread acknowledgement, something splinters best friends Danny (Alain Uy), Hing (Ron Yuan) and Jim (Mykel Shannon Jenkins), and they part ways for decades. When Cheng is killed, the now-past-it schlubs put their variations aside to solve the criminal offense — only to find that spinning hook kicks ain’t very easy when you’re 45 and haven’t stretched.
Writer-director Tran Quoc Bao is a mentee of kung-fu great Corey Yuen ; his obvious love for the genre acts him well here. The particular action is expertly managed, always stemming from character. That’s one of the vertebrae of the film: Each person fights a particular way, and the deterioration from the main characters’ skills may also be hilarious. A fight will be lost when a former badass appears to pull his groin on a move that was once second nature.
That said, the fighting choreographed by Ken Quitugua is better — more compelling, enjoyable and imaginative while becoming realistic — than in many straight action movies. There are no wire work here, or none that is obvious. No gravity-defying maneuvers. These are moves you might see within actual fights where a few cats are as fast as lightning (and it gets a bit frightening) … and other cats and kittens look ready for a nap.
The ensemble delivers, with Yuan’s actual comedy particularly strong. Because the trio’s former nemesis, Matthew Page steals his moments with ‘roided-out intensity as being a white guy much more steeped in Chinese culture than the main characters of Hard anodized cookware descent. Action director Quitugua is also a powerful, dominating presence, playing a deadly martial artist. He has mysteriously couple of credits but the makings of the star.
The film swings wildly from murder mystery in order to wacky comedy to family members drama. But really, just how unlike other action comedies such as “48 Hrs. ” or the later “Lethal Weapons” is that? Refreshingly, protagonist Danny is something of an premature jerk, infused with smart-mouth energy and good amusing timing by Uy. Just how much he learns along the way will be debatable, as his large message speech, delivered to their son, is essentially, “This is definitely how you punch. Go strike people. ” That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s an example of the things that make this indie unique and give it a voice.
The movie’s fun, however it may have received a few a lot of kicks to the face, since there are massive unexplained gaps. At the end, many viewers will be saying, “That’s it? But what about …? What happened when …? ” If you can let that go, “Paper Tigers” may not be a deep discuss aging or friendship, however it has enough humor and action to make it worth a couple of rounds.
‘The Paper Tigers’
Rated: PG-13, for some strong vocabulary, offensive slurs and assault
Running time: 1 hour, 48 minutes
Playing: Starts May 7, within limited release where movies building are open; also available on VOD