Published Aug 01, 2004It's hard to predict which version of this fantastic film you may see here in North America, as Miramax has been sitting on this gem for far too long as they tried to figure out how to promote such a quirky film to Western audiences. Some may have seen it 20 minutes shorter than the original and some may have seen it horribly dubbed to English. And if you're very unfortunate you've seen the version that had the nerve to tack on a hip-hop version of "Kung-Fu Fighting" as the end credits roll.
Regardless of which incarnation of this Stephen Chow comedy is playing, many fans have already seen 2001's Shaolin Soccer several times and a strong word of mouth movement has made this a cult favourite for those who enjoy their sports films absent of overly dramatic slow motion routines in the pouring rain. Instead, you're treated to impressive visual effects, as Iron Leg (Chow) and his Shaolin brothers break the law of gravity to steamroll their way through a football tournament.
Reduced to collecting cans for recycling money, Iron Leg is encouraged by the crippled Golden Leg to apply Kung-fu to sports, which strikes Iron Leg as a great way to spread the art form to the world. There are some truly exceptional moments in this film, including Iron Leg's meetings with a scar-ridden girl who is also a Kung-fu master, though she applies her education towards making delicious baked goods.
The best visual moments are easily the intense battles between our team of heroes and a superhuman Team Evil, who are completely hopped up on American drug enhancements. The two teams continually try to break each other physically and mentally, resulting in some brutal attacks on the goalkeepers, where full teams pummel them strike after strike, leaving one brother to be carried out on a stretcher.
The style of comedy might not catch on with all viewers, but once you get into the groove you'll have a hard time not breaking a smile. Shaolin Soccer is clever and incredibly entertaining, and, even though North America slept on it until now, will always be an underground favourite. (Alliance Atlantis)