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Shaolin Soccer - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Siu Lam juk kau

Hong Kong 2001

Comedy, Action

Stephen Chow

Stephen Chow
Vicki Zhao Wei
Ng Man-Tat
Patrick Tse
Wong Yat-Fei
Tin Kai-Man
Lam Chi-Sin
Lam Chi-Chung
Chan Kwok-Kwan

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Shaolin Soccer

Shaolin Soccer - Film Screenshot 1

Story: Fung (Ng Man-Tat) was once a popular soccer player, who was called "Golden Leg" until his rival Hung (Patrick Tse) crippled him. Hung has now the most successful soccer team of the country and Fung works under him. One day the former professional soccer player runs into Sing (Stephen Chow), a shaolin disciple who is known as "Mighty Steel Leg". His kicks are so strong that Fung wants to hire him as a soccer player no matter what. Sing is looking for a possibility to make use of his talent in a profitable way for a long time anyway since he is of the mind that Kung Fu can make everyday life easier in general. However, until now he only managed to scratch along as a garbage collector and couldn't make a lot of his life. Thus, he is instantly excited by Fung's idea. They want to create a team and therefore meet with Sing's shaolin buddies, who also don't amount to much. At first, they aren't convinced by the idea at all, but they back their friend up anyway. When they have eventually finished basic training their old talents are reawakened and they seem to be invincible. Still, Hung plays dirty in the country's most important soccer tournament, so that Fung's team almost doesn't stand a chance. Luckily, a food stall seller (Vicki Zhao) provides Sing with emotional support.

Filmroll Shaolin Soccer - Film Screenshot 2 Shaolin Soccer - Film Screenshot 3 Filmroll
Shaolin Soccer - Film Screenshot 4

Review: With such a great amount of new movies and the restricted time at hand as a self-proclaimed movie critic it should come as a surprise why you should favor a 16 year old movie over the numerous other new movies coming out of China. On the one hand it needs to pointed out that the output of decent Hong Kong pictures is rather rare these days and movies from mainland China are so propagandistic in tone that it has just become ridiculous. So why not watch one of the best comedies from Hong Kong a second time? Even the more since it didn't get its well-deserved review, yet. Furthermore, after Stephen Chow's disappointing "The Mermaid" I wanted to know if his former works really were so much better as my memory tells me or if this is actually just whitewashed pictures in my head. The conclusion is clear: "Shaolin Soccer" is simply incredibly funny...

Shaolin Soccer - Film Screenshot 5

What instantly catches your eye in comparison to Chow's newest works is that the humor certainly works on a slapstick level and oftentimes goes over the top, but never goes overboard so that you get the feeling the director just wanted to put some slapstick into the movie for the sake of slapstick alone. Instead, you can clearly make out Stephen Chow's love for old Kung Fu flicks and martial arts in general. Especially his speech in the beginning how Kung Fu could be integrated into everyday life perfectly is extremely funny. Apart from that the movie also turns out to be a work about dreamers and their dreams, resp. what it means to never give up. This may sound trite, yet it is realized well and always hits the right notes thanks to the always colorful characters, making us just root for those outcasts and losers of society.

Shaolin Soccer - Film Screenshot 6

Since "Shaolin Soccer" is also a sports movie which portrays the struggle of an underdog getting to the top you will also have the chance to get a warm fuzzy feeling of satisfaction. This aside Chow also pokes fun at exactly those movies and thus creates a meta level that suits the flick very well. Accordingly, this "soccer" movie works as well for fans of the sport as for Kung Fu enthusiasts (probably a bit better for latter), but also for all those that aren't really into either one. Just everything is made fun of here. The movie also benefits from its ridiculously portrayed violence which is aided by in parts still respectable special effects which brings things to a manga level and is simply fun, without losing any of its hard-hitting power.

Shaolin Soccer - Film Screenshot 7

In the supporting roles there are a lot of faces which also were to be seen in Chow's following most well-known movie "Kung Fu Hustle". Moreover, Vicki Zhao Wei ("Three") is an enrichment for the movie as a possible love interest since she doesn't just bring a surprisingly high amount of emotions into the movie, but thanks to her character's Tai Chi skills she naturally also plays a major part in the tournament's finale. If the Kung Fu you face is too strong there is always the more gentle Tai Chi to beat it. Martial arts fans will know this and will have to laugh about the comic-like way this inner martial art is depicted, too. Stephen Chow works with a fantastic eye for details and a lot of love and Ching Siu-Tung ("AChinese Ghost Story") as action director brings the necessary know-how to the table to successfully combine Kung Fu with soccer. And in the end it looks just as funny as you might imagine it, but also effective, mind you.

Filmroll Shaolin Soccer - Film Screenshot 8 Shaolin Soccer - Film Screenshot 9 Filmroll

Shaolin Soccer - Film Screenshot 10

Ultimately, it's the mix of the individual elements which is the true formula of success of "Shaolin Soccer". The characters are clichés without really being ones since they are making fun of themselves - just take the Bruce Lee copy as a goal keeper or the obese shaolin disciple who is a master of light skills and thus can fly - and the plot also toys with the clichés a sports movie brings along. Apart from that, there is action without a breather and the soccer matches look as if being taken right out of a manga/anime. Next to all the humor it's also easy to make out that the actors had a lot of fun during shooting and this is infectious. Furthermore, there are constantly extremely absurd scenes and deadpan humor, so that you won't be able to fight laughing out loud. "Shaolin Soccer" is extremely entertaining and for young and old alike. You simply can't go wrong with this one.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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