The Paper Tigers (2020)
October 31, 2021 2:50 PM - Subscribe

Three Kung Fu prodigies have grown into washed-up, middle-aged men, now one kick away from pulling their hamstrings. But when their master is murdered, they must juggle their dead-end jobs, dad duties, and old grudges to avenge his death. (Now streaming on Netflix).

NVNorthwest - "“My experience growing up in two cultures, understanding the world in two ways. There was the stuff you learned at home and the stuff you learned at school and with friends. All of that swirled in confusion and the value of having two perspectives and not getting locked in one culture. The movie is about these guys who are out of shape who used to be really good and they are being pulled between different cultures, values and that’s what this story is about, in a lot of ways, what I experienced growing up,” Bao told AREAA. "

NWAsian Weekly - "Many cities provide the backdrop to movies, yet if it’s not an internationally familiar location, such as London or Paris, it’s often difficult to distinguish one place from another—and in fact, filmmakers often endeavor to obscure the exact place their films are made, changing names of buildings and never revealing any distinguishing details. Not so “The Paper Tigers.” Local viewers will enjoy the many recognizable shots of Seattle that pop up throughout the film, and it will give non-locals a view of our city that they will not have seen in any other movie. The film starts off with a shot of one of the dragons in the International District, behind which can be seen the Smith Tower. These kinds of intentional framings are a great part of what makes The Paper Tigers so remarkable —and are deliberate, and affectionate, efforts to locate us geographically."

Seattle Met - "Of course, no one expects Jean-Claude Van Damme to represent all white men. That’s simply why we need more representation, more examples, more nuances. Lee was one guy, not a monolith. The Paper Tigers, Tran says, is true to his and his collaborators’ experience, growing up as Asian American kids doing martial arts, but it casts a knowing eye at the legacy it’s working in. “This is the riff—what if Bruce Lee was in a middle-aged crisis with a beer belly? … It’s kind of twisting all those old things into something new.” "

The Film Stage - "When I read it though, the script, I thought, ‘Man, this film is really, really got a lot of heart,’ and that’s the core of this film. It’s about brotherhood and finding yourself, finding each other at the end, no matter what differences that you have before that. I think that’s what was really great about this script. I can see why the actors that we had, the leads, and all across the board were really passionate about this project and really wanted to be part of it."

Film Inquiry - "From the very first moment we see Hing limp his way onto Danny’s driveway, it’s clear that time is an adversary in The Paper Tigers. It’s the reason why the film’s protagonists are physically stunted compared with their former selves and serves as the primary hurdle that they must ultimately overcome. Every fight scene in the film is framed as a physical struggle for these middle-aged former athletes but is really an allegory for their pursuit of somehow turning back the clock. Not just reversing time on their aging bodies, but on their own state of mind, which has been equally corroded by the passing years."
posted by Gorgik (4 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I watched this a month or so ago and recommend it! This is very "show me a movie that feels like a comedy but isn't one," which is not to say that it's humorless, but it's not really what I was expecting. (The White Guy Who Is Very Into Martial Arts was quite funny, but ultimately the film was pretty nice to him, too.) I kept waiting for the familiar moment where the movie would reassure the audience that our main characters have discovered their old strength and Become Total Baddasses Again, but the victories in the film are very quietly triumphant. Most movies feel very formulaic these days, so it's lovely to watch something that zigzags a little.
posted by grandiloquiet at 7:55 AM on November 2, 2021 [4 favorites]

This was charming. It didn’t exactly follow the usual Hollywood formulas the way I expected it to, and felt more genuine for it. Also featured some of my favorite spots in Seattle, and they weren’t just sets in Vancouver.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 8:49 PM on November 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

It was a nice little indie comedy. Felt a lot like the kung fu version of Cobra Kai. The little rough edges made it more distinct from Hollywood blockbusters, and funnily enough reminded me of a distantly similar film in the same genre- the RZA's The Man with the Iron Fists, which also had great fight choreography and some nonstandard storytelling.
posted by Apocryphon at 7:58 PM on November 12, 2021

That was the cleanest alley I've ever seen.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:55 PM on January 1, 2022

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