REVIEW: Shaolin Soccer (2001)

shaolinsoccer

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2001, The Star Overseas Ltd./Universe Entertainment Ltd.

Director:
Stephen Chow
Producer:
Yeung Kwok-Fai
Writers:
Stephen Chow
Tsang Kan-Cheung
Steven Fung
Andrew Fung
Lo Mei
Cinematography:
Apple Kwan
Andy Kwong
Editing:
Hai Kit-Wai

Cast:
Stephen Chow (Sing)
Vicki Zhao (Mui)
Ng Man-Tat (Fung)
Patrick Tse (Hung)
Wong Yat-Fei (Iron Head)
Mok Mei-Lam (Hooking Leg)
Tenky Tin (Iron Shirt)
Danny Chan (Empty Hands)
Lam Tze-Chung (Weight Vest)
Cecilia Cheung (Dragon Twin)
Karen Mok (Dragon Twin)
Saronder Li (Girl on Street)

Stephen Chow stars in the best film of his career, becoming the highest grossing movie of not only 2001, but the highest grossing movie in Hong Kong history. It also won the 2001 High Impact Award for Best Picture as well as the Best Picture at the Hong Kong Film Awards!!!

20 years ago, the best soccer player Fung reluctantly took a check from his teammate Hung. As a result, Fung blew the championship game when he purposely missed his penalty kick. A riot ensues and Fung’s leg is broken as a result. Today, Hung is the chairman of the International Soccer Federation. Working under him is the now crippled Fung. When Hung’s Evil Team are the heavy favorites to win this year’s soccer championship, Fung is fired from Hung, who admits he arranged to have his leg broken.

As Fung learns the truth, he is miserable. Upon watching a soccer game on television, he hears a comment on kicking from Sing, a Shaolin student nicknamed “Mighty Steel Leg”. Sing tells Fung that he has been planning to bring Shaolin Kung Fu into the mainstream. He explains by seeing people on the street how they can improve using Shaolin Kung Fu. Fung doesn’t believe it and when Sing kicks a can, it soars to the sky.

On his journey to think of how to bring Shaolin Kung Fu to the mainstream, he meets a young woman named Mui, who makes sweet bread using the art of Tai Chi. Impressed, he begins to sing. However, Mui thinks he is weird. However, she likes how Sing admires her Tai Chi. Despite the blisters and zits on her face, Sing thinks Mui is beautiful. He takes 2 sweet breads and pays with his broken sneakers!!! However, he leaves and Mui is impressed but throws the sneakers away.

Sing meets First Brother Iron Head, who works in a nightclub. Sing believes that singing and dancing will be the way to bring Shaolin Kung Fu. However, the night Sing and Iron Head perform, they are beaten by a young gang of Triads. The next day, Fung finds the can that Sing has kicked. It has traveled miles away and hit a brick wall, which crumbles when Fung takes the can out. He finds Sing with the gangsters who harassed at the nightclub. Sing wants to play soccer but the gang won’t let him. They try to beat him up, but Sing shows his excellent kicking skills and ends up kicking a soccer ball to the best of his abilities. Fung, impressed with Sing’s kicks, decides to form a new soccer team.

Sing decides to convince his old teammates to help him. However, Empty Hands, Hooking Leg, Iron Shirt, Weight Vest, and Iron Head refuse to join Sing. However, after looking deep in thought and an old class photo, the group decides to join Sing in hoping to form a successful team. When the team practices with Fung, Sing must learn how to control the ball due to his powerful leg strike. When Sing controls the ball, they get into a scrimmage with the gangsters from the nightclub. When the Shaolin team finds that the gangsters are too much for them, Sing and his team concentrate and soon use their full powers and are able to defeat the gangsters, even though Sing missed the goal by a little bit.

Thanks to Hung of all people, the Shaolin team enters the tournament. They are joined by some of the gangsters they defeated earlier. Together, the Shaolin team prepares and advances in the tournament. A shock to Hung, Hung prepares his Evil Team for combat. They are the champions and he will do whatever it takes for them to win. Meanwhile, the relationship between Sing and Mui is closer as she admits to Sing she likes him. He says he likes her too, but not knowing how much she likes him. Despite being sad, Mui supports Sing as the Shaolin Team have advanced and now, they are prepared to take on the Evil Team in the ultimate soccer showdown.

Ingenious!!! Simply ingenious!!! We know that Yuen Biao did a soccer film called The Champions back in 1983, but it was purely soccer. Here, we have the combination of martial arts and soccer in what is definitely one of Stephen Chow’s best films in his career. Here, he plays the Shaolin warrior Sing, who is determined to find a way to bring Shaolin Kung Fu into the mainstream culture of Hong Kong. He is joined by partner-in-crime Ng Man Tat as the ex-soccer player who becomes his mentor in the sport. Vicky Zhao is seen with four different looks, but no matter what, she is just beautiful. You gotta love her Tai Chi as well.

The team members are great too. You have Weight Vest, a 250-lb. guy who can fly in the air and Empty Hands, who is a Bruce Lee-lookalike…yellow tracksuit and all. Who would have thought Danny Chan would capitalize on this by playing Lee in the 2008 series The Legend of Bruce Lee and in 2015’s Ip Man 3. Being a fan of Bruce Lee helped Chow influence this particular role. Patrick Tse, a legendary Cantonese actor of the 60’s golden era whose son Nicholas is one of today’s top entertainers, is at times funny as Hung, but ultimately does a great job at playing the non-fighting villain. Look for Cecilia Cheung and Karen Mok in cameos as male…yes you heard me…male soccer players…Mok sports a goatee while Cheung has a moustache.

The soccer scenes are quite fun to enjoy with during a training sequence having a nod to Jurassic Park when Sing learns to control his kicking skills for the soccer field. When the team finally harnesses their skills and adapt them on the field, it just gets better. The final showdown between the Evil Team, pumped up with PEDs against the natural martial arts skills of the Shaolin Team, is perhaps how a Stephen Chow finale should be and is done to a tee. Full of insane VFX, wirework, and bloody soccer goodness, this is truly the piece de resistance of the film.

Shaolin Soccer is truly a must-see modern day Hong Kong film, filled with the typical Stephen Chow madness. Definitely a winner for sports and martial arts fans! While the film was released in the United States in 2004, it is better to see the Hong Kong version.

WFG RATING: A

DVD

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