June 20, 2021

THE PAPER TIGERS and the Missing Page

THE PAPER TIGERS (Blu-ray Review)
2020 / 111 min


Review by Tiger the Terrible😾

The Paper Tigers’ biggest laugh-out-loud moment doesn’t occur during the movie itself. It’s in the blooper reel, a deleted scene featuring Matthew Page improvising a story of a time his character and some fellow martial artists laid naked on the beach listening to whales mate. My wife and I laughed so hard we rewatched it twice. Why it didn’t make the final cut is beyond me because the film could’ve used a lot more moments like that...and a lot more Matthew Page, for that matter.

As Carter, the self-absorbed, pretentious and woefully-stupid “frenemy” to the film’s real stars, Page steals every scene he’s in. Channeling his inner-Will Farrell (only knowing when to quit), his goofy philosophizing provides most of the genuine laughs. A pretty decent fighter himself, I’d love to see an entire film featuring his character.

Instead, The Paper Tigers is about Danny, Hing and Jim (Alain Uy, Ron Yuan & Mykel Shannon Jenkin), childhood friends reunited following the death of their former Kung Fu master, Sifu (Roger Yuan), presumably from a heart attack. But they soon suspect he was murdered by someone using a lethal move that causes death from a single strike. At first they suspect a cocky young gang of Sifu students, but it’s soon obvious there’s a mysterious “disciple” who’s a hired assassin and using Kung Fu to kill his marks.

"Switching to decaf is more painful than I thought."
For the most part, the film aims for laughs, but Carter notwithstanding, it’s seldom as uproarious as the trailer suggests. Part of the problem might also be the three main characters. The story begins with a prologue showing them as cocky teenegers using their skills to pummel and trash-talk opponents. But decades later, time and age hasn’t really humbled them, despite repeatedly getting their asses kicked (fight scenes which often go on way too long). There’s nothing particularly endearing about these guys, nor do Danny’s attempts to be a better father make him any more relatable.

Another problem with the film is its poky pacing. There’s close-quarters action, of course, and those scenes are fairly well staged. But in-between are long, meandering stretches that are sometimes related to the plot, but just-as-often focused on these guys bickering at each other. It also doesn’t help that the primary antagonist doesn’t show up until late in the game and turns out to be your standard-issue martial arts bad guy (whose motives aren’t all that clear).

Considering the premise, it’s a shame The Paper Tigers doesn’t do more with it. The film isn’t badly made or anything, but nothing about it rises above perfunctory. There’s plenty of professionalism on display in the direction, performances and action sequences, but I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t trade a little of that in for something more memorable...and more of Matthew Page.








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