Tuesday, June 5, 2012

REVIEW - Shaolin Soccer (2001)

Shaolin Soccer
Hong Kong / China - 2001
Directed by - Stephen Chow
Starring - Stephen Chow, Patrick Tse, Vicki Zhao, Ng Man Tat
Color / 113 Min / Rated PG

Sing (Chow) is a down on his luck kung-fu master, on bad terms with his Shaolin brothers after the death of their mentor and eking out a humble existence on the streets selling tin cans. Sing’s dream is to legitimize kung-fu by teaching the masses of its practical uses in everyday life, but his schemes are met with failure until he meets ex-soccer star “Golden Leg“ Fung (Man Tat). Sing has the bright idea to promote martial arts through a soccer team, with Fung as the coach and his estranged Shaolin brothers playing alongside. But convincing everyone to join up might be the toughest trial Sing has ever faced, and even if Sing does get his Shaolin team together, the championship-winning Team Evil, led by the nefarious Hung (Tse), will be waiting for them on the pitch.

Yes. I said Team Evil.

Yes. That is the awesomest name for a sports team ever.

If you enjoyed Stephen Chow’s King of Comedy or Kung-Fu Hustle, there’s no reason to think you wouldn’t enjoy Shaolin Soccer too. It’s a goofy martial arts flick coupled with Chow’s brand of slapstick and fourth wall breaking humor minus the deluge of cynicism that creeps into so much comedy from the western world. Personally, I find Shaolin Soccer to be one of those ‘bad day’ movies. As in: “Wow, I had a really bad day… Oh, look! Shaolin Soccer is on. I feel better already.” You don’t need to be a soccer fan to appreciate the film, but if you are, you’ll probably get a cheap thrill out of watching the characters kick lumps into others ala Eric Cantona or deliver vicious headbutts ala Zinedine Zidane.

As with many actioners made around the turn of the century, The Matrix is a source of great inspiration here. (Gee, remember when that film was new and fresh and not stricken with sequelitis? Don’t you feel old now?) There’s plenty of ‘bullet time’ effects in addition to wire-based kung-fu on display. Not to imply that Shaolin Soccer is in any way a rip-off. The action scenes show a great deal of invention, especially in the approach to using the soccer ball as a weapon between members of Team Shaolin and Team Evil during the epic climax. There’s explosions on the field too. Because it wouldn’t be much of a soccer movie without explosions. Am I right?

If there’s one complaint, it’s that Patrick Tse doesn’t have enough screen time. Tse plays a delicious, scenery-chomping baddie, complete with dark shades and a pair of sweet white leather loafers. We needed to see more of him and his dastardly methods of training Team Evil to win the championship. (One of which includes giving them all performance enhancing drugs. The script makes sure to point out that the drugs are “from America”, which I find especially hilarious for some reason. Our baseball players are clean, I tells ya!)

Bruce Lee Fights Back from the Goal.
It took almost three years for the boneheads at Miramax to release this film Stateside. When it finally happened, approximately twenty minutes of footage got the axe and dreadful voice actors were hired to record the English dub. (Over the top English dubs are fun sometimes, but not in this instance). If you’re going to watch Shaolin Soccer, stick with the original Cantonese version with English subtitles. Not only are you getting the full movie (with the prologue and love story subplot intact), but you’re avoiding a terrible dub that drowns out both the score and the ambient noise at times. You also get to hear Stephen Chow singing bad karaoke out of tune in his native tongue. It’s worth it, trust me.

4 / 5


  1. I totally agree with you, awesome, very funny movie-I could put it on whenever....and I have that full movie, a shame how they get cut to pieces for release in Europe or America..they seem to think we cant handle more than 90 minutes of Hong Kong cinema...

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