Directed by Stephen Chow
Produced by Yeung Kwok Fai
Written by Stephen Chow and Tsang Kan Cheong
Director of Photograpy Pak-huen Kwen and Ting Wo Kwong
Music by Lowell Lo and Raymond Wong
Cast: Stephen Chow, Vicki Zhao, Ng Man Tat & Patrick Tse

2001/112 mins/Color/5.1 Dolby Digital
1.85:1 anamorphic/Cantonese/Hong Kong/NTSC Region 1

Review from the Miramax Home Entertainment DVD

There are many keys involved in viewing and accepting foreign films, which go beyond the acceptance of subtitles. One of the most important is the understanding that other cultures may view things very differently from your culture. Aspects of life such as humor and social status can vary from country-to-country are these attributes are often featured in movies. This kind of knowledge will surely assist one when viewing the truly unique Hong Kong import SHAOLIN SOCCER.

SHAOLIN SOCCER opens in 1983, as the cocky Fung, also known as "Golden Leg", misses a crucial free kick, thus losing the Super Cup for his team. He is thusly attacked by the crowd, who injure both of his legs. To make matters worse, Fung had accepted a bribe from teammate Hung to throw the game. The story then jumps ahead 20 years. Hung (Patrick Tse) is the head of Team Evil, a very successful soccer team, and Fung (Man Tat Ng) is his mistreated flunky. Disgraced and down-trodden, Fung meets a man named Sing (Stephen Chow), who, though he is a raggedy garbage collector, is an advocate of kung-fu and believes that kung-fu could be used by everyone to improve their daily lives. After seeing Sing, who is also known as Might Steel Leg, in action, Fung is convinced that kung-fu could be used in soccer and urges Sing to join him. Sing likes the idea and recruits his five brothers, all of whom were trained by a Shaolin master. The brothers are; Iron Head (Wong Kai Yue), Hooking Leg (Me Mei Lin), Iron Shirt Tin (Tin Kai Man), Lightning Hands (Chan Kwok Kwan), and Light Weight (Lam Tze Chung). Fung then tries to mold this undisciplined group into a soccer team. After they are joined by a group of ruffians, the Shaolin Soccer team is ready to take the field in a chase for the Super Cup, and possibly a meeting with Hung's Team Evil.

To say that SHAOLIN SOCCER is an interesting film would be a wild understatement. On the surface, the movie is a very basic sports movie and isn't very different from films such as ROCKY or THE MIGHTY DUCKS, as we have the older, shamed coach who is determined to mold a champion out of rough stock. The team's evolution also follows classic sports-film storytelling, as they grow from a motley group of players into a team of contenders.

But, that's where the similarities to any other sports movie end. Writer/director/actor Stephen Chow has taken the traditional sports movie and dropped it into the middle of at least two different Hong Kong genres. Obviously, the movie takes cues from action films as it infuses kung fu with soccer. But, the film takes this notion to the extreme as the martial arts offered in the movie don't just enable the players to do a better job of kicking the ball. No, the players are endowed with full-on, old-school Hong Kong action film powers, as they can fly, flip, and kick the ball with speed and grace. These elements grow throughout the film, with the finale going completely over the top. In addition to this, the film also borrows heavily from the often silly comedies of Hong Kong cinema. Stephen Chow and Man Tat Ng are constantly mugging for the camera, and even the most serious scenes contain some sort of odd joke. And then we have Sing's love interest Mui (Vicki Zhao), a girl whose acne is so thick that I thought she was a burn victim at first. Her attempts to make herself beautiful for Sing are played for some very strange comedy. Oh, and I'm not even going to talk about the dance number...

So, with SHAOLIN SOCCER we get several films in one. The soccer action sequences are incredibly well-done and show off some breath-taking special effects. (Although, admittedly, they aren't all seamless.) These scenes are a great deal of fun and show why the film was an international hit. But, the film also stays true to its Hong Kong roots and some may find the humor and the way that the characters treat each other very strange and distracting. (I'm not going to talk about the dance number...) And I still have to wonder what the average soccer game is like in China if the crowd didn't find the events of the final game surprising or disturbing. Despite its erratic nature, SHAOLIN SOCCER is an entertaining film which some will treat as a curious oddity and others will love.

SHAOLIN SOCCER is kicked onto DVD courtesy of Miramax Home Entertainment. The DVD contains two versions of the film, the U.S. theatrical cut and the original Hong Kong version -- more on that in a moment. Both versions are letterboxed at 1.85:1 and have been enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The images look good, although there is a slight amount of grain at times, and there are moments where the image is too bright. The colors look fine, most notably the reds, but the transfer looks somewhat flat in some scenes. Also, there are some minor defects from the source material present. Both cuts sport an excellent Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which contain an abundance of surround sound and subwoofer action. The final game could easily be an audio demo for your home theater.

As for the two cuts, the U.S. version is 89 minutes, while the Hong Kong cut is 112 minutes. I watched the Hong Kong cut in its entirety and skimmed the U.S. version looking for differences. To answer the big question, yes, the dance number is in the U.S. version. The main difference appears to be that U.S. cut has done away with some character development and the team gets to the tournament much faster. Also, in the U.S. cut, all major Chinese words have been replaced with English, including Golden Leg's tatoo!. The subtitles on the Hong Kong version are yellow and easy-to-read, but they contain many typos and grammatical mistakes. There are no other extras on the DVD.




No points were given since there is no extras.


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Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2004. ©