Paper Marriage (1988: Sammo Hung: Hong Kong/Canada)

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Paper Marriage (1988: Sammo Hung: Hong Kong/Canada)

Post by Masterofoneinchpunch »

Chinese title: 過埠新娘 roughly means Passport Bride. There is another Hong Kong film with the same title from Shaw Brothers in 1959. That film was a reworking of Hollywood’s Waterloo Bridge (1940).

“Sex maniacs, porno representatives. I’m excited to see you”

Romantic comedies are generally a pretty predictable subgenre of films. There are certainly some good ones out there like When Harry Met Sally (1989), Say Anything (1989) though most tend to be middling affairs that follow some very basic pattern like boy meets girl (usually through a “meet cute”), boy almost woos girl, boy does something stupid to upset girl, boy must have dramatic scene in last act sometimes involving Peter Gabriel music to win back girl. Here we have a scenario where the entire plot is based on getting two unlikely people together: a needed green card (done earlier in Come Live with Me (1941), and done later in Green Card (1990) and The Proposal (2009).) Hilariously this is supposed to be taking place in Los Angeles. However, they go the races at the Northlands in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, Frank Lee’s Martial Arts Studio is in Edmonton and even more hilarious is the famous West Edmonton Mall.

Bo Chin (Sammo Hung) needs money after losing at the horse races, his current alimony to his ex-wife (real life future wife Joyce Godenzi) and previously owing money to low level gangsters whose Hawaiian shirts and sunglasses make them look like they were rejected from the casting call of Magnum P.I. He is a misogynist curmudgeon who never takes a bath and, of course, will be redeemable by the end of the film (I do not know about the bath thing though.) He takes a job as an acupuncture guinea pig. Do not expect it to go well. Off to Frank Lee’s Martial Arts studio where he visits Uncle Tsai (Frank Lee). Tsai does not give him great hope for money as Chin is a shell of his former kickboxing self but does give him an idea. A sham marriage which he whispers into his ear which makes absolutely no sense because there is no one in the room. Meanwhile Jade Lee (Maggie Cheung) is leaving Hong Kong for the United States to be with her boyfriend Peter (Alfred Cheung who also happens to be the director) who is more interested in her money than her. He wants her to be part of a fake marriage. We know who with.

Unfortunately Peter takes off with the money putting both Jade and Bo into a bad situation. They need money. They get some as a couple for the same Psychological Research center proving that women can take more punishment then men. But still not enough. Bo has to get back into fighting, eventually having a match with his wife’s new beau (Billy Chow) and Jade decides to try her hand at mud wrestling. Now she can get 2000 dollars per mud wrestling match. That is crazy unless they were thinking Hong Kong dollars. I would do that (either American or Hong Kong dollars or a free cup of tea.)

But the last act (or I think we need to pad more time to the film and involve some action sequences) takes the film into even more worn territory plot wise as it includes the “getting the wrong suitcase/duffel bag/satchel switcheroo” scenario. How this happens strains any sense of credibility, but try not to think about it. The two end up with a lot of money they have dreamed about, but like the duffel bag in No Country for Old Men that baggage comes with a price. But here for most of us viewers the fun begins, especially when Dick Wei shows up in his Miami Vice couture. Then the film is fight and stunt bliss, especially in the West Edmonton Mall. Though I am rooting for Dick Wei strictly because of his attire, that and being the former head of the Venoms Clan.

Action aficionados might be disappointed by the straight-up boxing match between Phillip Ko and Hung. It is a bit weird. Ko has trouble throwing a legitimately looking jab and cross. It just looks awkward. You can see him push the arm instead of snapping it across and his balance is off. This is probably why it is filmed too close up. They also make the big mistake of going slow-motion after a bad punch. Never do this it exaggerates the poorly delivered hit. This is not a particular high point in either of their fight choreographies. The mud wrestling match is pretty much a squash. But the ringed kickboxing match between Hung and Billy Chow does fare better. Now I do not think Hung would ever win that type of match with Chow with him being a kickboxing champion and still competing at the time of the filming, but it does look a lot better than the one with Ko. Chow was trained by Frank Lee at the time and, of course, was in Edmonton at the time. He impressed Sammo Hung in this which helped lead to bigger and better roles (or at least more acting jobs) like Fist of Legend.* But the last act is the strongest with action. There are a couple of nice stunts, especially the fall through the glass, bouncing off an awning and then not bouncing off the ground for one stunt man. You get a nice showing of Billy Chow versus the late real-life kickboxer Tony Morelli and much more.

Overall the movie is pleasant enough. Some of the funniest scenes involve the guinea pig research. The action is sporadic, sometimes bad, and sometimes really good. In the filmography of Sammo Hung it is filler. It does not reach the lows of his later films like Don’t Give a Damn, but I do not think many will prefer this to Dragon’s Forever or Pedicab Driver. But to be fair I do not know the filmography of the director Alfred Cheung that well. Too much of the plot is cliché as it revolves around a “Green Card” angle and then a “mistaken baggage” subplot. But you could probably get away with watching this or Heroes of the East with your non-martial arts supporting significant other. Especially if they have forced you to watch too many romantic comedies. The horror, the horror.

I viewed this on the Universe R0/NTSC DVD release. It has decent English subtitles along with Chinese Traditional, Chinese Simplified and Bahasa. There are two audit tracks: Mandarin and Cantonese (my preferred for this.) There is the Trailer and More Attractions (Where’s Officer Tuba; Shanghai, Shanghai; The Owl vs Bombo).

* Now if you are looking at release dates this statement may confuse you. The film was released in 1988, but filmed in 1986 (I am not sure why the delay.) Billy Chow had done a couple of roles before, but this was a big break because it led to Sammo Hung hiring him again which then lead to more work.

Keywords: 1986 Senior Games, Chinese Indians, Chinese mime, Foot Locker, Frank Lee’s Martial Arts Studio, front flip kick, mud wrestling, INS, Muay Thai, NAIT, Northlands, optical effects, payphone, Radio Shack, Right Guard, rotary telephone, spinning back fist, Tony Morelli, USA Today, water slide, West Edmonton Mall

That first hit from Sammo to the female during the racetrack scenes looked overly hard.
That certainly is not Sammo’s body with that face. Could not find that picture with Frank Lee but I am sure it is Billy Chow.
Sammo makes fun of her teeth. She would get these fixed in real life.
I am glad I do not see those horrible guys see-through mesh shirts now like I did in the late 1980s.
Are there marriage ceremonies that do both “you may now kiss the bride” and “you may now kiss the groom?”
Why did this take so long to get released?

Youtube: Paper Marriage in News Report (1986) Cheung mentions Neil Simon. Handover is mentioned. Calls Sammo Hung Southeast Asia’s greatest star. Shows behind the scenes of glass-breaking stunt toward end.
Youtube: Billy Chow Extra. 43 wins, 8 losses 30 knock outs. Chow talks about Paper Marriage being his first film, but strangely enough he did act in two films before this movie. You can also find this extra on the Dragons Forever Zoke Culture release.
Book: The Hong Kong Filmography, 1977-1997 (2000) by John Charles: he gives this a 6/10. He does mention Siao Yu (1995), which I have not seen, as having a similar but more serious plot.
Love HK Film: small review.
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