As always, it is my pleasure and privilege to start the Unwrapping. I’ll be real with all of you; I do enjoy it a lot. I like knowing that I’m an important part of this. I like sharing it with you; it’s an honour that I’m called on to perform twice a year.
Accidental Star Trek Cosplay has gifted me with The Paper Tigers. Now, to me, one of the best parts of Movie Gifts is getting to see movies you really enjoy that you almost certainly wouldn’t have watched on your own, and we have hit that here. (Let me briefly brag that his other suggestion, Chan Is Missing, is by a director I’ve actually met personally who filmed part of a movie at my childhood home. I, um, like Chan Is Missing a lot better than Anywhere But Here, though!) I haven’t been watching a lot of not-children’s programming on Netflix in recent years, and I’m not sure its description would’ve been something that made me watch it even if I had been. However, I definitely would’ve been missing out.
Sifu Cheung (Roger Yuan) has died. According to the coroner, he had a heart attack in the alley near the restaurant he worked at and spent the entire night lying there dead. His three disciples have long since walked away from gung fu. Danny (Alain Uy, Yoshi Sudarso in the video footage of their teen years) was the best. He was known as Eight-Hand Danny, and he was going to turn pro. But he walked away. Now, he’s in insurance and is the divorced father of a child he pretty solidly disappoints. Hing (Ron Yuan and Peter Adrian Sudarso) learned Chinese medicine from Sifu Cheung; ten years ago, he had an accident at a construction site and wrecked his knee. Jim (Mykel Shannon Jenkins and Gui DaSilva-Greene) now does what looks more like MMA. Their old nemesis, Carter (Matthew Page and Mark Poletti), tells them their master was murdered and sends them on their way to basically get beat up a lot.
I mean, I get it. These guys are only a little older than I am, and I’m definitely not up to the stuff I could do at twenty. At twenty, I was routinely walking two or three miles without even breaking a sweat, except on the steep bits, and these days, my knees hurt if I have to walk my kid to his school bus stop. Only Jim has done anything like keeping in shape, and he seems to train more than fight when we first encounter him. And they are expected to fight for their sifu’s and clan’s honour like nothing has changed. Carter may be juicing, but he’s also in theory still practicing.
He is also the most entertainingly insufferable character in the entire movie. In the footage we see of the characters as young men, it’s clear that Carter has spent a lot more time watching Bruce Lee movies than he has actually practicing. In one of the videos, Jim says he’s not even going to take off his jacket to watch the fight because it’s going to be over that quickly, and he is not wrong. The other three, Sifu Cheung’s Three Tigers, had existential crises and grew up and walked away, and Carter just basically decided he’d become Bruce Lee, but, like, movie Bruce Lee. If any one of them had just hit him while he was showing off poses, you get the feeling the fight would’ve been over right then.
Danny walked away from fighting, and when he did, he walked away from all the teachings he’d learned. I’m not saying he needed to teach if he didn’t want to. None of them were obligated to make gung fu their lives. It does seem, though, as though they learned a lot of good lessons as young men that they all walked away from. Keep your word. Protect the weak. Be there for one another. And for the love of Gods, do not accept Hollywood money for a whitewashed version of your film, because there’s no way it would’ve been as good if they had as the movie actually became.
So how did all of you enjoy your gifts?