Monday, August 31, 2020
Thoughts on the wonderful THE PAPER TIGERS (2020) Fantasia 2020
What is that you say- a martial arts film that is not only charming but heartwarming as well? Why yes, that’s it exactly.
The plot of the film has three middle aged guys who have given into the time and tide of life coming back together when their former kung fu teacher dies. Supposedly he died of a heart attack but they suspect it was something more. As they investigate they try to get back into something resembling shape, while at the same time desperately trying to deal with their lives, one of them is a divorced dad who needs to figure out how to split time with his son.
This film is an absolute blast. I was sent the film for review and then I decided to peek at the opening minutes because I was curious and I ended up watching straight to the end. I smiled and laughed all the way through.
I’ll talk about the action in a minute but first I have to say what I love about the film is that Tran has made a film about people. Everyone on screen are all people we not only like but people we know. Tran has crafted a film that is about the guys down the street… assuming they know kung fu. But even if they don't these are our friends and neighbors. The result is we click into their journey for redemption easily because ultimately they are us. They react as we do and say the things that we would say. They are delight.
As for the action, it’s great. The fight sequences are all perfectly modulated. They are scary when they have to be and funny when required. Best of all Tran and his action director Ken Quitugua manage to blend the hits and the humor perfectly. We laugh at some of the mismatches but we also wince because we see the impact. They understand for a film to truly resonate their has to be a cost in the hero’s journey- and we get that as we hear bones crack and bruises appear. Because the action is kept real the suspense is greater. Truth be told because of the realism and the cost the fights are some of the most satisfying in years. Yes, they aren’t flashy like a Jackie Chan or Donnie Yen fight- but that’s not this film. This is the fights older guys might have with a slight movie assist.
This is a great little film. However I am not going to waste the pronouncement about it being one of the best films of year on it. Best films get lost when the new year comes. Instead I want to say that this film is better than a best film- this is one of those films that is going to become one of the films you watch every time it shows up on cable. You know what I’m talking about- this is going to be one of those films you channel surf into and then you don’t leave until the end credits roll. Those are the sort of films I think are truly the best- those are the films that you’d take to desert island. Yea, a “Best Film of 2020” may stand out, but you won’t watch it every time it’s on. THE PAPER TIGERS is that sort of film- you'll watch it every damn time just because. THE PAPER TIGERS is cinematic comfort food that we will watch a thousand times and become part of our souls.
A must see at Fantasia or where ever it plays.