Shaolin Soccer
Dir: Stephen Chow
Star: Stephen Chow, Vicki Zhao, Man Tat Ng, Yin Tse, Yut Fei Wong
Cert / Year: PG13 / 2001
Format: DVD R1

In 1983 football after star Golden Leg is talked into missing a vital penalty (why does a player called golden something missing a penalty sound familiar) the fans riot and leave him crippled. Years later he is living as a broken down bum when he meets Sing a man desperate to bring Shaolin Kung Fu to the masses. Together they plan to reunite Sing's five Kung Fu master brothers and rekindle their skills in order to form a football team and win the cup using a brand of Kung Fu football. Even if they manage to pull this off they will have to face Hung the man who ruined Golden Legs career and defeat his invincible team Evil.

The sporting underdog story has been done to death. From golf to rugby nearly every sport has been covered by a tale of the misfits that overcome the odds to emerge victorious, and with football (sorry American chums we mean real football not your armored rugby game) already covered what is left to tell. Well in this case you add in a hefty dose of Jackie Chan style action, tons of comedy that occasionally borders on the Airplane like surreal and round it off with The Matrix style effects. If this all sounds a little mad then I can confirm it is, however it all leads to one brilliantly original and insanely funny film.

Comedy is the key to this film and it is a very funny film even if things do get pretty surreal at times. What is impressive is how accessible the humor is to western audiences. There are a impressive number of jokes packed into the script from simple prat falls to comic one liners. Non of it is too intellectual but most of it is very funny. Underneath it all the film manages to spoof the traditional Far East cinema in a way that no western film has been able to. Check out characters like Iron Head and Mighty Steel Leg then marvel at their chosen brand of Kung Fu and laugh out loud as they use it to play football. It is a real pleasure to watch a film that makes you laugh and keeps on doing it.

The other side of film is the combined martial arts football game itself (a concept so daft as to be funny in itself). Things here are equally impressive not so much in a martial arts physical way but in a computer generated The Matrix sort of way. The football games are very loaded with CGI effects, but for the most part this doesn't matter as they are of an impressively high quality (hey they even have bullet time). This leads to some bizarrely entertaining games of football that obtain apocalyptic levels in terms of martial arts special moves. Imagine the more traditional brand of martial arts fantasy fights but with a football and you can get the idea.

Full credit must be given to Stephen Chow for not only writing and directing but for fill the central role. This really is his baby and he has done exceptionally well in all three roles. An excellent supporting cast aids him with Man Tat Ng, Yin Tse, Yut Fei Wong and Vicki Zhao all putting in superb performances in particular.

Shaolin Soccer is an absolute scream of a film. It's funny, action packed, and contains some impressive visuals. If there is a complaint then it's that the whole thing will be rather too silly for some people, but for those who like their comedy a little eccentric then this is the film for you. Being a fan of football is not a prerequisite, in fact the game seen here pays little heed to the original sport, so non fans or even football haters should still enjoy this film. If this is an indication of the level of Hong Kong film comedies then I canít wait to watch some more. Just next time lets hope Miramax doesn't make us wait two years before releasing them.

This DVD release comes with both the original release and the US Theatrical release, both of which have their merits. The US release is shorter and more slickly edited so it flows better plus it has a better music score. The original version has more jokes and is much more violent, although some of the extra jokes don't work so well for an internetional audience. Overall neither version is superior.


Kick Some Grass.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Picture 1.85:1 Great picture.
Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 The US Thetrical release has both Cantonese and English soundtracks, the original version is Cantonese with English Subtitles. All lauguage options are of good quality.
Features Two different versions of the same film.
Verdict A superb transfer but no real extras save the alternatve version. Fortunately the inclusion of the alternate versions is a great idea.

Rating: 2 out of 5

Reviewed by Glitz Back Top Home