Showing audiences something fresh in the martial arts genre can be a tall order with so many classics released over the years. The Paper Tigers, directed by Tran Quoc Bao in his feature debut, manages to get it done masterfully in this action dramedy that pays homage to kung flicks of previous generations.
Premiering at the Fantasia Film Festival in virtual fashion last year, the award-winning film will soon be available to audiences around the world following a Blu-ray and DVD release tomorrow on June 22. Refreshingly, the cast is comprised of talented group of actors I personally had not seen in anything before playing Danny (Alain Uy), Hing (Ron Yuan) and Jim (Mykel Shannon Jenkins), a trio of former hungry kung fu companions who have become estranged, their better days clearly behind them.
The movie kicks off with a cold open of their Sifu Cheung (Roger Yuan) murdered during a fight in an alleyway by a mysterious adversary, which brings the “Three Tigers” back together — albeit begrudgingly, at first — to find the killer. Though the tone is serious at the beginning, what makes the story so unique and engaging is an ideal blend of purposely unpolished, yet still thrilling, choreography, character development and genuine laugh-out-loud dialogue not witnessed since perhaps the Jackie Chan Hollywood era.
Whether it’s watching Danny masterfully piloting his Toyota Sienna minivan, or steely fight sequence setups that end in Hing collapsing after his bum knee gives out, the funny moments are genuine and never corny. There’s also surprising amount of chemistry between everyone on screen.
As Bao explains in the behind-the-scenes feature, the picture possesses an underlying theme of portraying an accurate representation of the Asian-American experience without making it obvious, reflected in the casting choices. Stereotypes are kept to a minimum, childhood rival Carter (Matthew Page) perfectly embodying the role of the white guy who thinks he’s Asian notwithstanding.
Other bonus content includes deleted scenes and bloopers. The Paper Tigers has a runtime of 111 minutes and is rated PG-13.