Shaolin Soccer


Reviewed by: David Stanners

Forget Beckham, or Roberto Carlos's legendary swerving set pieces. Welcome to the world of the Shaolin technique - a method Berti Vogts might have tried in desperation before he took his marching orders.

Shaolin Soccer is a quirky little comedy made with a wacky Hong Kong slapstick feel, not unlike that of Jackie Chan. Golden Leg Fung (Man Tat Ng) is a former footballing legend who, after missing a penalty in his early career, was crippled by angry fans secretly ordered by a jealous, less talented team mate, Hung (Yin Tse).

Despite an abrupt end to his playing career, years later Fung dreams of future success as a coach, and one day bumps into Sing (Stephen Chow), or Steel Leg as he is known. Demonstrating prodigious kung-fu skills that enable Sing to boot a ball harder and faster and further than anyone else, Fung begins to coach him and his socially inadequate friends in the true Shaolin spirit.

Forget football, as we know it. This is a game played with forces of magic. Like the Chinese fly through the air in martial arts films, here the ball dips, swerves and shifts like a fireball using cosmic forces and other tricks to dislodge players, turf and goal nets. If only the Scottish game were a fraction of this!

Instilling passion and team spirit amongst his motley crew, Fung utilizes the prodigious shooting skills of Sing and the balletic movement of the Shaolin martial arts to steer his team towards the final of the national championship. Here he faces his long-term nemesis Hung, who has deliberately prepared his team with a dose of American steroids to thwart the Shaolin challenge.

Like an Asian version of Stomp, the rhythm is the harmony and the feelgood factor the juice. Miu (Vicki Zhao) is a steam bread maker with bad skin, but whose perfection in her craft captivates Sing, who happily befriends the lonely girl, telling her she's beautiful. Making an invaluable contribution to the team before the final game is up, she proves her worth and adds to the socially inclusive flavour of the film.

Recent Asian big hitters, such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero, require the audience to suspend disbelief and unleash their imagination. The same rules apply here, but on a lighter scale. Think comic books, Jackie Chan films and Brazilian football, without the tactics. Shaolin Soccer fits somewhere in between.

Reviewed on: 13 Nov 2004
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Light-hearted comedy featuring a group of social misfits coming together under a football legend and kung-fu expert to challenge for the championship.
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Director: Stephen Chow

Writer: Stephen Chow, Kan-Cheung Tsang

Starring: Stephen Chow; Vicki Zhao, Man Tat Ng, Yin Tse, Yut Fei Wong

Year: 2001

Runtime: 113 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: Hong Kong


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