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"The Paper Tigers" (2020) | Sam Gall Movie Review Issue #113 Gem Mint 10.0

“The Paper Tigers“ (2020)

Director: Quoc Bao Tran

Writer: Quoc Bao Tran

Starring: Alain Yu, Ron Yuan, Mykel Shannon Jenkins, Andy Le, Philllip Dang, Brian Le, Raymond Ma, Matthew Page, Jae Suh Park, Joziah Lagonoy

Rated: PG-13 for strong language, offensive slurs, and violence

Runtime: 1h 48min

Genre: Action, Comedy

Country: United States

Language: English (possibly some Japanese or Chinese but IMDB isn't confirming, but for sure know they speak another language for just a few seconds here and there)

"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."

You might like this if you like: Martial Arts, Martial Arts Movies, Kung Fu, Gung Fu, Action, Adventure, Comedies, Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Donnie Yen, Tony Jaa, Iko Uwais (all the greats!), "The Karate Kid" franchise, Judd Apatow movies, Dramas, Badass Movies, upcoming "Shang-Chi" movie, Alain Yu, Ron Yuan, Mykel Shannon Jenkins, Andy Le, Philllip Dang, Brian Le, Raymond Ma, Matthew Page

Ron Yuan (left), Alain Yu (middle) & Mykel Shannon Jenkins (right) in "The Paper Tigers" (2020)

The Paper Tigers” (2020) hit me in all the right places.. I had no idea what I was in for other than expecting some decent martial arts because I knew Andy Le (“Wu-Tang: An American Saga” 2019 & the upcoming Marvel film “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” 2021) was involved. I went in cold, no trailer or even synopsis, was absolutely blown away!

From the moment it started I fell in love with its style and heart. The opening credits were beautiful and was such a wonderful way to introduce us to the characters over time. As an heavy consumer of martial arts films, this is something I don’t normally find too often right from the start.

"The Paper Tigers" (2020)

Again, what I don’t expect from most martial arts films is to be equally as great in other genres they choose to touch and every single scene that “The Paper Tigers” (2020) wanted to shift moods it solid sold for me. From feeling like I was watching an old Shaw Brothers movie to feeling like I’m in a Judd Apatow film… and then being able to blend those two as well as director Quac Bao Tran did is one hell of an accolade to hit in my book! What a god damn terrific director debut!

I started bawling up early on when Danny (Alain Uy, who is absolutely amazing & is my new favorite actor) was driving his son to Magic Land. It really hit me all the right spots that I wasn’t expecting.

Alain Yu (left) & Mykel Shannon Jenkins (right) in "The Paper Tigers" (2020)

Just the story itself I truly loved! It felt so real, modern and relatable yet it was giving me all the things I loved about the fantastical, magical, superhero-like moments and feelings that I loved so much in past martial arts films. Felt like these guys truly knew their stuff and were paying homage to ALL the greats from generation to generation like Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Michelle Yeoh, Donnie Yen, Tony Jaa, Iko Uwais and so many more.

Ron Huan and Myles Shannon Jenkins were amazing! Huan (pretty legend, done a lot of video game work, most recently was in Disney's "Mulan" 2020) was wonderful! Felt like an homage to the beloved Sammo Hung! Jenkins was also a new face for me, but just like everyone else left me wanting to see more of their work! On top of that they’re all insanely talented martial artists! It’s crazy! I love it!

Brian Le (left), Phillip Dang (middle) & Andy Le (right) in "The Paper Tigers" (2020)

Andy Le was awesome! I loved his little group of characters! He's the one with the red bandana and is the first to fight Ron Huan's character in the empty pool scene! He is such a wonder to watch perform! Both acting and martial arts wise, but holy sh** especially martial arts wise! It's no wonder he was hired for stunts (and possibly a role? who knows?) in the upcoming Marvel epic "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" (2021).

Matthew Page was hilarious! The perfect white comedic relief in a full Asian cast.

Shoutout to Danny McBride’s and Jody Hill’s “The Foot Fist Way” (2006) for being the closest thing to a ‘Judd-Apatow-Movie-with-Martial-Arts”, of which I will definitely review soon, was still arguably small.. “The Paper Tigers” (2020) doesn’t necessarily feel as big as like say those blockbusters like “Mulan” (2020) or the upcoming “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” (2021) and “Snake Eyes” 2021), BUT it has strong stakes and the pacing is just as fast and packs just as much of a punch as the big boys do!

Matthew Page (left) & Mykel Shannon Jenkins (right) in "The Paper Tigers" (2020)

Loved the themes they touched on friendship, family and race. So many strong messages and doing it just as well as the others, and in doing so, breaking down walls for people like me who hope to make a film like this one day!

It had everything I could want in a movie and did hit all of them, not as a jack of of trades, but as a MASTER of all trades! I wanted martial arts; they gave me the best of the best! I love comedy; they gave me that when I wasn't expecting it and in fresh new ways! I love hip-hop and the utilized it perfectly in the story and cinematically! They gave me heart and soul; something I needed more than I though I did to re-inspire my passion and spirit for cinema and for telling stories! They even gave a small nod to comic books at one point! It truly was everything I could want in one! Better yet; they blended it all beautifully like a seasoned composer! On top of that it looked incredibly gorgeous!

Ron Yuan (left), Alain Yu (middle) & Mykel Shannon Jenkins (right) in "The Paper Tigers" (2020)

I love, love, love this movie! I don’t think I have any complaints! My only thought towards the end was… I wish I had made this movie. Or at least, had gotten to be a part of this movie. It looked like so much fun, did everything I would’ve wanted to (they would do it much better than I would ever), talked about themes that resonated with me, payed homage to the greats that I also consider the greats, and just finally felt like a movie for me. For us. For so many more people that maybe didn’t feel they had one like this before. Thank you so much Quoc Bao Tran for making this film and for Andy Le for making me aware of this film in the first place!

Written by Sam Gall on June 25, 2021

CGC Grading: Gem Mint 10.0

"The Paper Tigers weaves back and forth between comedy and drama throughout its runtime, and it does that weaving with grace and skill across multiple tempos." - Justin Harrison, The Spool

"Tran's film thrives as an infectious love letter to kung-fu cinema." - Matt Conway, Battle Royale With Cheese

"The Paper Tigers is an enjoyable action-comedy exploring the different ways people change over time. Tran Quoc Bao creates an exciting and interesting world filled with Kung Fu and friendship." - Amanda Mazzillo, Film Inquiry

"Ragtag to the point of almost feeling homemade, this cheerful, lovable action comedy edges close to creaky martial arts and "old guy" movie cliches but evades them with sheer spirit and gumption." - Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media

"The Paper Tigers is crafted with a sense of passion that can only come from a filmmaker who is eager to express their own intimate creativity. Which is impressive for a feature film debut." - Wilson Kwong, Film Inquiry

"The Paper Tigers plays with kung fu tropes and upends a lot of these stereotypes with a story that skillfully blends gripping action, emotional authenticity, and the right amount of comic relief." - Carla Hay, Culture Mix

Official Trailer:

Behind the Scenes:

Available on various VOD platforms

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