Run Papa Run
Year of release: 2008
Director: Sylvia Chang
Producers: Jackie Chan, Willie Chan, Patricia Chong, Solon So
Writers: Susan Chan, Sylvia Chang, Woo Yan-Wai
Cinematography: Chan Chi-Ying
Editor: Kwong Chi-Leung
Music: Wong Wan-Ling, Chung Hing-Man
Stars: Louis Koo, Nora Miao, Rene Liu, Liu Yihan, Max Mok, Lam Suet, Ti Lung, Shaun Tam, Michael Chan, Kent Cheng
Rated IIB for Triad-themed language and violence
DVD available for purchase at www.sensasian.com
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Run Papa Run is a bit of a different take on the usual Hong Kong gangster movie shenanigans. In the film, Louis Koo plays Lee, a young man who finds father figures in the Triads his mother (Nora Miao) takes care of in her underground clinic. Despite his mother's objections, Lee joins the local gang, and soon becomes one of the most powerful gangsters in Hong Kong.
However, things are turned upside down for Lee soon after her meets a pretty lawyer named Mabel (Rene Liu). After getting Mabel pregnant and marrying her in a shotgun wedding, Lee finds himself wanting to be a "good" Triad for the sake of his daughter, Heiyi. Of course, it isn't so easy for a hardened gangster to be a nice guy, and Lee must try to balance the needs of both of his "families".
This is definitely more light-hearted material than your usual Triad movie. Though I wouldn't go so far as to call it a comedy, there is a sweetness running throughout the film. At times, it does get too cutesy for its' own good though.
Most notably, there are scenes that throw in small animated special effects, such as when Lee and Mabel meet and sparks literally fly. There are also a couple of ill-adivsed musical sequences that are thankfully kept very short, and a somewhat annoying narration method where Lee breaks the "fourth wall" and speaks directly to the audience.
Some note must also be made of Run Papa Run's obvious pro-Christian message. Lee is a Buddhist, Mabel is a Catholic, and the film seems to purport that the true path to goodness is through Christianity. Maybe I was reading a bit too much into the proceedings, but I don't think any one can doubt the essence of the message presented here. It comes off as more than a bit heavy handed at times, even to someone that is a fan of John Woo's work -- whose slow-motion shots of doves seem subtle in comparison to some of the cinematography contained here.
Also, in a little message to all film-makers: just because you admit that an ending is leaving a lot of plotlines hanging, it doesn't necessarily make things right. For a film with three screenwriters, one would think there would be some kind of real resolution, instead of the throwaway explanation given to the audience during the final reel.
In spite of its' flaws, Run Papa Run is an enjoyable movie, fueled by Louis Koo's strong performance and the solid work of the long-missing Nora Miao. While it can't successfully pull everything together, and is a bit clumsy in its' storytelling, Run Papa Run was ultimately really refreshing. It was a very good feeling seeing that Hong Kong film-makers can still create something other than the usual cookie-cutter "make young pop stars look tough" Triad picture which too many releases seem to end up as nowadays.