Apparently there were offers to make this film with a studio budget, as long as the roles were worked for major stars (Bruce Willis and Nicholas Cage among those wanted), but the filmmakers chose to seek funding on Kickstarter rather than whitewash their script. While I respect this decision, it shows that there is no studio influence, in both good and bad ways. As noble as the decision was to keep minorities in the main roles, it doesn’t help with their amateurish acting and the script problems a studio likely would have worked out. The Paper Tigers is a highly watchable film, but also one that constantly asks you to look past flaws in filmmaking.
The story begins with home footage of three young kids being trained by a master sensei. We aren’t given many details to explain the dynamic of this relationship, why these three are so close to this kung-fu teacher, or where the parents are. It doesn’t really matter, and this movie doesn’t put much emphasis on the internal logic of the story. All we need to know is that they have a really good teacher, but that they also often squander their skills in petty street fights to feed their ego and win the affection of admiring women. So, when we jump forward 25 years, it is no surprise to see that each has become a washed-up middle aged failures.
Jim (Mykel Shannon) is the only one that has maintained his kung-fu skills (but for some reason is still portrayed as the least skilled), whereas Hing has completely let himself go physically. Danny was always the best fighter among the three, and has seemed to have learned the least over the years. On top of stopping kung-fu altogether, he is also as irresponsible as he ever was, constantly letting down his young son. It isn’t until they hear that their former sensei has died that these three reunite and begin to question where they are in their lives.
Ultimately, this is a light and predictable film. And given it falls under the kung-fu genres, there is an inevitable revenge plot involving their murdered sensei. They discover their former mentor had a new student after swearing he would never teach again and believe he may be responsible for the untimely death. Setting out on a mission to find and punish the person responsible, the three repair their bond of friendship along the way. It is all very predicable and only occasionally surprising, though never boring or difficult to sit through. It feels like the type of film you might stumble across at a smaller film festival and be slightly impressed, but I would never hold it up against a classic kung-fu film, comedy or otherwise.
The Blu-ray release for The Paper Tigers isn’t bringing much visually to the table. If anything, it makes the flaws in filmmaking more apparent. At the same time, the sound design for the film’s fight sequences are surprisingly good, and my surround sound made the DTS-HD soundtrack pop even more. This may also be why I found myself more impressed with the fight scenes than anything else the film had to offer.
The Blu-ray also comes with a behind-the-scenes featurette. There is also additional footage, including a handful of deleted scenes and a blooper reel. Part of me wishes that the bloopers had been over the credits, as a few of these moments made me laugh more than the film itself .
Entertainment Value: 7/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 5.5/10
Historical Significance: 3/10
Special Features: 4/10