• The Outside Story

A Genuine Love Letter to Hong Kong Action Comedy

Written by Larry

I grew up watching too much Hong Kong films, with the likes of Jackie Chan and Stephen Chow. It got worse when I studied Film Production in college, but I wasn't the only one who enjoyed them. It was easy to get my college roommates and buddies together to watch the latest release from Hong Kong, especially if it had someone's name they knew. Donnie Yen's Special ID just came out and we gathered around and seated ourselves next to a projector aimed at the wall, hooked up to a laptop, complete with speakers and a subwoofer. Our movie nights were like no other.

Watching The Paper Tigers reminded me of those movie nights, a trip down memory lane to nostalgia to when times were simple and wholehearted.

Wow, I sound like an old man.

Directed by Bao Tran, The Paper Tigers follows the story of three friends, Danny, Hing, and Jim. As teens, they were known as "the three tigers" as they were undefeated in their challenges against other martial arts disciples in their local scene. However, they soon separate after a falling out with their master. Thirty years later, their master passes away, but they discover his death is surrounded by unnatural circumstances, prompting them to investigate the possibility of a fourth disciple.

The Best Opening to a Film

The film credits starts with a montage of the three tigers and their exploits in high school as they go around and challenge other martial artists their age. Of course, none of them stand a chance. Here we see how much they enjoyed being with each other and makes you wonder how in the world they fell apart.

The three young tigers with their master, Sifu Cheung (Roger Yuan). From left to right: Jim (Gui DaSilva-Greene), Danny (Yoshi Sudarso), and Hing (Peter Adrian Sudarso).

Marvelous Martial Arts Cinematography

Action films in general tend to be chaotic, as it creates a sense of confusion and adrenaline. However, The Paper Tigers action sequences are more steady, allowing you to see the movements of the fighters onscreen. This is a refreshing take, especially for an American production. The techniques utilized by each character also reflects their personality and their mindset when fighting.

Danny (Alain Uy) prepares himself for a battle on the rooftop of a building.

Hilarious Banter and Situations

It's rare to see action and comedy in the same feature, as they are usually reserved for classics such as Police Story and Shaolin Soccer. However, this film plays on the fact that our three main characters are old, out of shape, and have forgotten how to fight. There's no dramatic comeback with a special technique like in The Karate Kid, but rather use their knowledge and wisdom because they are older. There's also a lot of poking fun at the character, Carter, who is an archetype of White Americans who are excessively obsessed with Asian philosophy and culture.

One of the tigers, Jim (right) played by Mykel Shannon Jenkins, fights an old rival, Carter (left) played by Matthew Page.

Asian American At Its Heart

Taking place in Seattle, Washington, we are exposed to a variety of backdrops set in the International District and Chinatown. This setting is significant as it pays homage to Bruce Lee and his opening of martial arts schools in the area. In addition, much of what the characters experience are reminiscent of the Asian American experience.

So if you're looking for a lighthearted, comedic, entertaining film to watch for the weekend, check out The Paper Tigers!