Paper Soldiers is a comedy drama following the exploits of a group of burglars and the trails that they face as they try and provide for their families and escape the dealers and dangerous elements in their neighbourhood. It somehow manages to mix the comedy and drama. This has less to do with the writing and directing and more with the easy going and natural performances of the cast. This article provides a review of Paper Soldiers (2002).
Paper Soldiers follows an overeager burglar named Shawn through the ups and downs of his short, stressful career. Already on parole, but faced with the power of being turned off and his child forced to eat nothing, but cereal, Shawn convinces an older thief to train him. He soon finds himself caught between his angry girlfriend, his incompetent would-be-criminal friends and a neighbourhood sociopath with a hair-trigger temper. This drama is directed by record producer Damon Dash and written by Brian Ash, Damon Dash, Terrence Mosley, Charles Q. Murphy and Myles Reiff.
Paper Soldiers really lives on the performances of its cast, especially Kevin Hart. Carrying the film, he is required to provide the dramatic and comedic heart and excuse the pun of the film. In this genre of
film-making, the comedy work can sometimes come at the expense of the characters. It also relies on easy humour, for instance, during a robbery, when Shawn is caught by other criminals and squeals like a little child. For the most part, Paper Soldiers manages to avoid this trap. The film moves along at nice pace without any scenes that feel too long or out of place. The film even manages to make the police and parole characters human and natural, not the usual stereotypical cut-outs that usually populate these types of films.
Despite of having great performances and largely avoiding the clichés, the Paper Soldiers full movie does fall into the trap of clichéd dialogue. Every other word is a curse or ‘nigger’. It feels like it is written by a hip hop producer and this pulls the film down and confuses you with some of the scenes. The tone shifts quickly from comedic to hard drama. The cast holds it together well, but it does seem to come out of nowhere and like the dialogue, tends to alienate you from the film.