RUN PAPA, RUN PAPA, or is it LOLA?

Run Papa Run, 2008

dir: Sylvia Chang

There is something about Sylvia Chang, whether as an actress, writer or director. She always strives to want to bring something new to her work. As a director, sometimes she succeeds brilliantly like in TEMPTING HEART (yes!!!) and 20 30 40 and sometimes fails like in PRINCESS D. RUN PAPA RUN is not an exact translation of the Chinese title. The Chinese title actually means A GOOD PAPA, if translated literally. So I don’t know how it became RUN PAPA RUN which is at once comical, does not really reflect the story and reminds one of RUN LOLA RUN. Maybe A GOOD PAPA sounds a tad too boring and common. Being common is not something that Sylvia Chang admires. Or maybe, just maybe, the director wants re-iterate that this movie is not a normal run of the mill dramatic movie and has elements of wackiness and fantasy in it, just like how the keyart depicts.

With this in mind, one will see why the movie suddenly breaks into a song out of nowhere and why LEE the triad boss (Louis Koo whose acting is certainly not up to par and is more comical than resembling a feared triad boss – maybe he should stick to movies like HAPPY BIRTHDAY which he also played with Rene Liu and both them and the movie were very good) talks to the camera. In fact, the creative opening title is rather refreshing to watch. RUN PAPA RUN takes a microscopic look into the life of a triad boss. In the majority of Hong Kong movies, triad bosses are depicted as violent (they actually are) or heroic but these movies hardly zoom into the inner life of the triad boss. In this movie, we see how a new born daughter plus a great wife (played by the ever so superb Rene Liu) changes the life of the boss and by talking straight into the camera, the audience is given a rare chance of what he actually thinks and feels.

Out of 10 triad members, 9 of them ends with a miserable life. That is the premise of the movie. Will LEE be the 10th, a triad who can actually lead a normal and good life at the end of the tunnel? Being a triad boss who is himself controlled by a board of directors (just like a modern big corporation), can he escape the underground activities and start fresh to give his beloved daughter a healthy life (some scenes depicting the fathers love for the daughter is actually quite nicely done)? Can he hide from his daughter forever that he is in fact a triad boss? Can Jesus save him? In fact, in a scene, LEE equated the Christian establishment with a triad establishment. So once he joins this new Kingdom of God, can he get out and continue to pray to Guan Yu and get blessings from both? Can the movie actually convince us that the love of a father to the daughter is boundless and exceeds any sacrifices that needs to be made? Will God do the same for all his children on earth (or at least those that believes in Him)?

However, the treatment of Christianity as a savior sometimes go overboard and becomes preachy and that got on my nerves quite a bit. We don’t have to be reminded constantly that only Jesus can save us and if a person is not baptised, he or she will go straight to hell (even if that person has done good his or her whole life???). Another disappointment in the movie is the rather predictable ending. Well, to think of it now, as I am typing away at the keyboard, what kind of ending can Sylvia Chang actually tell? Maybe this is the best ending ever for a triad boss. To avoid concluding an ending like most commercial movies does, she actually has an option of not providing an ending and leave it at that and let the audience come to interpret it. Like in TEMPTING HEART, the ending is perfect. Even thinking of the ending of TEMPTING HEART now, I can feel goose bumps at the back of my neck. That is because the ending inspire a sense of nostalgia, of could-have-beens, of deep feelings that is hidden in one’s heart but could not reveal or be expressed, of the unfortunate turn of events and of naive dreams.

RUN PAPA RUN is not even close to that but is definitely something fresh versus the onslaught of too many costume movies and dumb rom-com coming to the cinemas nowadays.

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