Sunday, July 6, 2008

Shaolin Soccer (Hong Kong 2001)

Shaolin Soccer (少林足球), the 2001 masterpiece (yes, I said masterpiece), by the amazing Stephen Chow (hailed by People magazine as the Jim Carrey of Asia...hmm, whatever), is exactly what I look for in a Hong-Kong comedy: wild slap-stick humor, entertaining acting, fun and decent-looking special effects with a story that does a good enough job taking the film from point A to point B. A must-see for any fan of Hong-Kong cinema or simply comedy for that matter.

The once much-revered soccer star Golden Leg Fung (Ng Man-Tat) is now a washed up, handicapped, street-beggar after being let go by his once teammate/boss Hung (Patrick Tse). A particularly important soccer match when both were in their prime led to Fung being crippled by a group of rioting fans, and Hung took over his spot as team favorite. Now that Fung is out of a job, he also has nowhere to go. He eventually runs into a lowly street cleaner by the name of Sing (Stephen Chow) who, when he's not collecting trash, is trying to peddle kung-fu lessons to anyone who will give him the time of day. The two men discuss their views on soccer and kung-fu, resulting in Fung storming off and believing Sing is just some crazy guy with an incredibly strong kicking leg. Sing then meets up with brother Iron Head (Wong Yat-Fei) whom is trying to make a living working with a bunch of gangsters. Sing is desperatley trying to find a way to incorporate his Shaolin kung-fu with other forms of entertainment (singing and dancing for example). After having his interest peaked on the soccer field, Sing thinks that mixing his Shaolin kung-fu with soccer would be a great way to get the public interested in kung-fu and Fung sees the potential in Sing's "steel leg". Seeing as how the upcoming soccer tournament could make Fung a cool million dollars, he agrees to teach Sing how to play soccer and the two of them head out to recruit Sing's "brothers" to fill up the team. Each member of the team, Iron Head included, have special Shaolin kung-fu abilities that they can ulitize on the soccer field. Now they just need to learn how to play the game. The ability to play the game and Hung's "Evil Team" are the only things standing in their way of the million dollars the championship trophy.

Well this definitely wasn't the first time that I'd watched Shaolin Soccer, but I figured it was time to get a review going for this modern-day classic. Really, I feel like this is already a classic. Stephen Chow won awards for best director and actor and the list of awards and nominations for the film fall into basically every single category imaginable. Sure, the story is a simple one of redemption and underdogs having their moment in the sun, but the entertaining characters, special effects, and overall feeling of "what are they gonna do next!?" is what makes Shaolin Soccer so enjoyable. The magic these characters pull off on the field is always a blast to watch and you'll really want to root them on when they're faced with daunting challenges.

Shaolin Soccer put Stephen Chow on the map in the States, and continued solidifying his already concrete-career throughout Asia. It's a film that will make you want to explore the man's impressive catalog of films and you'll almost certainly be a fan that will follow his future works as well. For that reason alone, you should really purchase this movie and see what all the fuss was, and in some circles, continues to be about. (Lee)

Grade: A


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