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Laramie Movie Scope: The Paper Tigers

A more personal martial arts movie

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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May 19, 2022 – A beloved martial arts teacher is murdered in a fight with a hit man. Three of the teacher's middle aged former students from years earlier seek justice through martial arts, even through two of them have fallen on hard times and are seriously out of shape.

This sounds like a kind of standard setup for a martial arts action movie, but this film is different. It is more like a character study about three wayward men who have lost focus, are trying to heal old wounds and are trying to rededicate themselves to their youthful ideals. These Three Tigers are Danny (Alain Uy of ‘Father Stu’) Hing (Ron Yuan of ‘Mulan’) and Jim (Mykel Shannon Jenkins of ‘The Gods’).

Jim is the only one of The Three Tigers who has stayed in shape and is still teaching martial arts students, but he is not the most talented of the three. Danny had the most talent as a student, but abruptly left the discipline as a youth after disagreements with his fellow students and their teacher, Sifu Cheung (Roger Yuan of ‘Mulan’). Now, he works a dead end job and struggles to relate to his young son following his divorce.

Overweight, and saddled with a limp, Danny and Jim's friend Hing still practices the lessons that he learned from Sifu Cheung, and is very skilled in ancient Chinese healing arts. While Danny and Jim have largely drifted away from the teachings of Sifu Cheung, Hing has remained faithful, even though he has also drifted away from his old teacher.

When The Three Tigers learn that the recent death of Sifu Cheung may have been the result of foul play, they decide to investigate three young fighters who were near the scene of the crime. Challenged by the young punks The Three Tigers emerge victorious in combat, but just barely, and Danny, once known as ‘Danny Eight Hands’ for his lightning fast reflexes, is knocked out. It turns out the young punks are not involved, and they know nothing about Sifu Cheung's death.

In their next match, they are all beaten by an obnoxious former fellow student, Carter (Matthew Page of ‘Whiskey Tango Foxtrot’). Carter eventually tells them about a mysterious hit man who may have murdered Sifu Cheung using a blow called ‘poison fingers’ which causes a heart attack in the victim. The three locate the mystery killer, Zhen Fan (Ken Quitugua of ‘Unlucky Stars’) and follow him to a restaurant where he murders a businessman using the poison fingers technique, which leaves no trace.

The Three Tigers confront Zhen Fan, who readily admits he killed Sifu Cheung, and he challenges the three to martial arts combat. Zhen Fan is a very powerful fighter. He appears to be too strong for any of the three men to beat. The Three Tigers have some life or death decisions to make.

Confronting a killer puts the lives of The Three Tigers in perspective. Old arguments are settled and, facing death, Danny gets his priorities straight and learns to be a better father. Hing tries to atone for his past failures, and Jim finally reconciles with his old friend Danny, but will they survive the challenge that awaits them?

The actors bring The Three Tigers alive in a very convincing way. Their emotional journeys are at the very heart of this film, along with the code of conduct they have sworn to follow. The fight scenes are also convincing because they are messy and not choreographed to death, reflecting the rusty skills of the aging fighters. Some camera tricks borrowed from Bruce Lee movies spice up the final fight scenes. This film rates a B.

I received a bluray of this movie for awards consideration. It includes some extras about the making of this film and what the filmmakers wanted it to be. Like the film itself, this movie seemed to be a labor of love for all who made it.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff (no extra charges apply). I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright 2022 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)

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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at dalek three zero one nine at gmail dot com [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]