Paper Marriage:”I can do without you but you can’t do without me.”

Year: 1988
Directed by Alfred Cheung
Produced by Choi Wing-Cheong
Written by Keith Wong Wang-Gei and Alfred Cheung
Cast: Sammo Hung, Maggie Cheung, Alfred Cheung, Dick Wei, Joyce Godenzi, Billy Chow, Hsiao Ho, Tony Morelli, Chin Ka-Lok, Phillip Ko, Rainbow Ching and Meg Lam

A young woman enters into a sham marriage with a debt ridden man for the sake of a green card.

If Paper Marriage was made in America, Paper Marriage would be purely a romantic comedy. But, since, it is the product of 80s Hong Kong, action comedies were at their peak popularity then, so, it is partly a romantic comedy and an action-comedy. A Canadian city doubles as what is supposed to be an American city. Sammo is Bo Chin, a man chased by loan sharks and burdened by alimony payments. His ex-wife is ironically played by the actress would become his future wife. Sammo plays to type as the cheeky everyman. Bo Chin hasn’t gotten over his divorce. When he faces off against his ex-wife’s boyfriend, it works as a good character moment while being awkwardly humorous.

Maggie Cheung’s Jade Lee comes to America to start a new life with her boyfriend, Peter. Peter is curiously portrayed by the director himself, Alfred Cheung. Peter is one the kicks off the plot so, the director himself helming the role is a fitting cameo. It is left ambiguous if Peter is just using Jade or not. Although, my money is on the former. Maggie Cheung does give it her all in bringing Jade Lee to life. She injects much charm in a rather mild role. Paper Marriage has Maggie Cheung using her comedic chops more. She also dons close to every bad fashion trend of the 80s. Jade Lee’s wardrobe choices are amusing. That’s not the most amusing thing involving Maggie, the most amusing is her mud wrestling duet.

Much of Paper Marriage is it set like a rom-com. The usual hi-jinks that happen when two strangers of the opposite sex are forced to live together occur. And, also the antics of two people that need to feign intimacy as well. Maggie matches Sammo in comedic ability and timing to create many scenes of great slapstick. Maggie and Sammo also take up being guinea pigs in exchange for some short cash. Those scenes are rather…… strange. The romance side of Paper Marriage largely falls flat. The two possess a little chemistry. If the paring was kept platonic, it would have serviced the story better.

The action comedy aspect of Paper Marriage gets into gear after a macguffin literally pops out of nowhere. Sammo Hung pays tribute to Jackie’s Police Story by setting his final fight in a mall. Sammo’s take isn’t as spectacular nor it does it intend to but it is fun. Action can’t be bad when Dick Wei is involved.

Paper Marriage fails on the ”romantic” aspect of a romantic comedy. Yet, this one lopsided type of a romantic comedy delivers more than enough engaging comedy to be worth the time of any Sammo Hung or Maggie Cheung fan.

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