Tuesday, September 1, 2020

The Paper Tigers - 2020 Fantasia Movie Review

The Movie: The Paper Tigers

The Director: Bao Tran

The Cast: Joziah Lagonoy, Matthew Page, Jae Suh Park, Mykel Shannon Jenkins, Alain Uy, Ron Yuan, Ken Quitugua

The Story: 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.

The Interview:

The Review:
Okay, so this movie was basically everything I was hoping it would be although why did director Bao Tran have to speak to me so truthfully about what ti feels like to get older. Seriously, it was a lot of fun to watch the characters at first in their prime physical shape as young men and then as creaking, road weary adults who have not done nearly enough to maintain any sort of physical status. I was right there with them each time they pulled a muscle or needed to lay down to take a rest and of course totally on board with the humanity each of them displayed as well.

I feel like that aspect should be credited equally to Tran's direction and writing skills and to the abilities of the three actors who play the aging Tigers Alain Uy, Mykel Shannon Jenkins, and Ron Yuan. The movie is a comedy and it's also very much grounded in a reality that is easy to understand and the performances go a long way to selling this aspect of the movie. The comedy wouldn't work nearly as well if you didn't relate to the guys so much, especially Danny who is also dealing with career, relationship, and parenting issues along with trying to regain any semblance of his former martial arts glory days.

One of my favorite things about the movie is how Seattle it is. The locations, the music, the views, the buildings. All of it is iconic to anyone who has lived here for any length of time and especially when we get to see so much of the Chinatown-International District represented in the movie. Pick your favorite restaurant and you'll probably see their sign and there are multiple views of the streets and the famous Chinatown temple gate that lets everyone know they are in an historic and honored neighborhood.

I mentioned music and I have to say, hearing Kid Sensation's "Back to Boom" at the very beginning of the movie had me 100% sold on just how good and authentically Seattle it was going to be. If you don't know who Kid Sensation is just think back to Sir Mix A Lot's Posse on Broadway and a dropped twenty dollar bill. That might bring back a few memories. For me, Back to Boom was a song one a cassette maxi single that I played over and over and over and I was till singing along to the words as soon as I heard them in the movie. Long time Seattle residents get what  this song means having it kick off the movie.

The most noticeable thing about this movie is that it just feels good all the way through. The story has elements that will remind you of classic martial arts films, it is genuinely funny mostly because it's so self aware, and it is also filled with hope and possibility. The movie has a lot of heart and a few lessons to be told and all of it is handled in such a likable and entertaining way. Maybe I'm a bit biased because I live in Seattle and the movie's soul is in Seattle but I'd also like to think that anyone would enjoy this movie no matter where they are from.

The Verdict:
The Paper Tigers is cinematic comfort food that hits all the right spots. It's dim sum at Purple Dot and then a walk through Hing Hay Park on a Sunday afternoon. It's dinner at Kona Kitchen with a group of friends reminiscing about the younger days. It's boom boxes, and break dancing at Golden Gardens until the sun goes down. It's like good memories and hope for the future because, no matter what life throws at us, we're going to be okay.

TwoOhSix.com Podcast Interview with Director Bao Tran

The Paper Tigers is an official selection of the 2020 Fantasia International Film Festival.

To see more reviews, interviews, and festival coverage please go to: TwoOhSix at Fantasia 2020

Check out the TwoOhSix.com Podcast!

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