As far back as I can remember, Sylvia Chang was playing the tomboyish female inspector character opposite Karl Maka and Sam Hui in the Aces Go Places franchise, and it's been quite a transition for her from actress to acclaimed director. I haven't been watching a lot of her films lately, the last being Princess D and saw her in person during the local gala of the film. So in all honesty, I had decided to watch Run Papa Run based on her directing pedigree.
Run Papa Run reunites Louis Koo and Rene Liu again for the big screen, after their initial leading pairing in Happy Birthday. Here, they too play a couple that are polar opposites, Koo being in familiar territory as triad chief Lee Tin-Yun, and Liu as Mabel, an aspiring lawyer who decided to junk her high flying career to start a family with Tin-Yun, given after all, a shotgun wedding to begin with.
As most would say, fatherhood will begin to change a man, and for Tin-Yun, the arrival of daughter Hai-Yi begins an uphill battle within himself to change for the better. Gone are the recklessness of youth where fights and getting injured are part and parcel of territorial disputes, and begins to rebrand his illegal business to more legitimate ones, albeit some being a front for the same seedy business, but drugs is something he would not touch.
Sylvia Chang managed to present quite a sympathetic tale weaved primarily for the Tin-Yun character, and with deft touch provides multiple layers to his triad character, with ample comedic moments to lighten up the mood. Being essentially a superstitious character who has prophetic dreams (which we will see in an animated opening credits sequence), I thought Tin-Yun had provided some very interesting insights on his take of religion, having to convert to Catholicism, while yet maintaining his ties to Guan Gong, the deity of choice of many triad members out there.
But more importantly, it tells of the growing up of the Tin-Yun character over a period of many years, chronicling his ups and downs, rise and fall within the triads, though with good buddies Big Mouth (Lam Suet, check out his incredible hairstyle in the beginning), and Big Eyes, starring Max Mok in a welcome return to the big screen, even though both of them really didn't have a lot to do. As such, this movie is primarily a Louis Koo vehicle, and provided him a platform to showcase his acting range, while at the same time, crafting a very likable character. Rene Liu on the other hand, whilst given the meatier role in their previous collaboration Happy Birthday, clearly takes the backseat in this movie, as the long suffering wife whose pride and joy slowly drifts to become more like the father, who has spend a lot of time getting into and out of police stations, and finding it difficult to keep what Tun-Yun is doing, from their daughter.
However, the movie does take its time to tell its story, and toward the last act you do feel a little hard pressed for things to move a notch faster, as it creates a lot of subplots that you'd see coming from a mile away, which while nice to have, doesn't really contribute a lot to the story's depth. For Louis Koo fans, I know that this is one movie that you shouldn't miss!