Film & DVD Review
In a fight against the gangsters, Sing, who is watched by a previous soccer star Fung, fights his way out, showing his powerful martial arts kicking skills. Sing is persuaded to form a soccer team together with his Shaolin comrades for the national soccer tournament. With Fung as their coach, Sing and his teammates' talents for kung fu are unleashed on the soccer field... This release contains the extended version.
Winner of countless awards at the HK equivalent of the Oscar's, starring one of, if not THE, biggest star in Hong Kong cinema, featuring special effects which are on par with some decent budget Hollywood films, shaolin disciples and football. These are all elements of the most recent Stephen Chow comedy, Shaolin Soccer.
"Look at me when I'm pointing at you!"
Without a doubt, this is Stephen Chow's most internationally accessible and commercial film to date, as it contains humour in a style which isn't alien to westeners. As a result Shaolin Soccer was picked up for international distribution by Miramax. It was Miramax's handling of this film which really began to piss off the international asian film fans. Aside from sitting on the film for a long long time, Miramax insisted on editting the film down, removing major plot lines, westernising even more, dubbing it and rescoring it in places. From a 112 minute film, the MiramAxe edit runs at something like 87 minutes. That is 25 minutes of film removed! If you are not a seasoned Asian film fan, and you are reading this, Shaolin Soccer is due for US theatrical release mid-August 2003, and I would urge you to NOT support that butchered release. Instead buy the excellent DVD by clicking the link above, and see the full length of the film, how it was intended to be. Do NOT support anything that MiramAxe touches regarding Asian films.
"Cause I'm flexible, and I know I am..."
Enough of that, on to the film itself. Stephen Chow is Mighty Iron leg, a student of Shaolin kung fu who is determined to share the Shaolin philosophy and teachings with the world. He knows the world would benefit from learning Shaolin kung fu, but has yet to find an effective way to get the world interested. With five of his brothers, when their master died they promised to spread the teachings, however Might Iron Leg is the only one who still has the enthusiasm and belief to keep trying. The others are all in dead-end jobs (except one who appears to be a successfull business man), with no respect from others.
Enter Golden Leg Fung, a once great football player, who disgraced himself by throwing a match for money offered to him by Hung. As a result, there was a pitch invasion and Fung's leg was broken. He became a cripple, unable to walk or play properly, and Hung prospered and became a highly successful football manager.
"The head-down evil look. Works, eh?"
Fung soon learns that Hung had arranged for his leg to be broken, ruining his career, and upon witnessing Mighty Iron Leg's kicking power and skills, he realises the possibility of combining Shaolin kung fu with football, much to Iron Leg's delight! With the Football National Championships coming up, Iron Leg and his Shaolin brothers, all come together to form a football team, under the coaching guidance of Fung. Looking like a bunch of complete misfits, Hung does not see any threat from them entering the tournament, and genuinely believes it will be hilarious to watch them, but when he learns of their true power, he realises that he must stop them, regardless the cost.
"If I miss, it's going to be embaressing!"
I have to say that Shaolin Soccer is one of the funniest films I've seen for a while. Without being completely over the top and farcical in approach, it still manages to be ridiculously funny. There are plenty of serious moments to give a good contrast, and there are also plenty more spoof moments, which will leave you in stitches. To list the best funny seens is possibly a pointless exercise, as there are too many of them, but one of the scenes which I really enjoyed, was the 'test' football match with the infamous amateur team. Right from the word go it is funny, but one things start getting rough, and Mighty Iron Leg starts crawling to get to safety, it gets hilarious. The war film spoof here is brilliant, kind of zany yes, but still very funny. And once the 'reinforcements' arrive and Fung speaks to Iron Leg, seeing the position Iron Leg is in had tears coming from my eyes!
"They'll never guess we're women... will they?"
I must also mention the football matches in the tournament. The first one is just plain funny due to the reactions of the opponents. They are in disbelief about who they are playing, thinking that they are going to be pathetic, but once the match starts and the Shaolin team scores, they just can't believe it, thinking it is all an illusion! One of the matches also features short cameos from Cecilia Cheung and Karen Mok as two highly skillfull footballers, in a match which shows the Shaolin team's goalie off at his best!
The special effects need to be mentioned. They are definitely on par with Hollywood films which would have had 2, 3 even 10 times the budget Shaolin Soccer had. In a lot of places it is clear that what happened to someone was done with CG, but despite this, I don't think it looked too computer like, and at no time did I feel like I was watching a computer game in motion, unlike recent Holywood films, like The Matrix Reloaded. The egg, the football, the speed ripples, the rebounding of the players, I thought it all looked highly convincing. Especially the football, it has to be said, as even though you could tell through what was happening on screen that it was a CG football, the reaction of the person using it and his movement made the football seem like it was really there.
"Now take a deep breath."
While acting quality is not really as important in a Stephen Chow film as the comedy and what is happening on screen, I have no complaints about anyone in this film. Stephen Chow may be regarded as the best film comedian in Hong Kong, but I know of a lot of people who do not think much of his acting abilities. Well in Shaolin Soccer, I thought he acted very well. His character's enthusiasm for his cause is ever prevalent, Iron Head's pitifulness and lack of self-respect is also well portrayed, and Vicki Zhao is excellent as the quite, confidence lacking Mui. Each actor and actress does pretty much what is needed out their respective roles.
"Yes, I just may be losing it."
This release of the film also comes with the Special Version, which is just a few extended scenes compared to the normal version. To access the special version you have to press the 'enter' or 'select' button on the dvd remote when a white Shaolin Soccer icon appears on screen. There are also quite a number of people who have complained that this icon appearing on screen is really annoying, as it gets in the way of the film. This I don't understand. All you have to do is press the 'enter' button, and you are taken to the extended scene, and the icon is gone. No problems, no annoyance. I do recommend you watch these extended scenes, as they are funny, particularly the first song and dance one.
I would sing my praises more about Shaolin Soccer, but I have a crap singing voice. All that needs be said is that it is a wonderfully funny film, accessible to all, and for those who are not really into Hong Kong cinema, this is a good place to start!
The weather took a sudden turn of darkness...
Audio & Subtitles
The audio comes in Cantonese or Mandarin. I only watched using Cantonese, and I have watched it in both stereo and DTS modes. Obviously DTS is far better than stereo, that much doesn't really need to be said, but in both, the speech was crystal clear, as were the effects. Volume levels were good, and there was good bass too. The DTS track immerses you more into the film, due to the addition of the surround speakers. Effects play around all the speakers to good effect, and the subwoofer is also used to give that extra depth. All in all a very good soundtrack.
"He wasn't aiming at my head, was he?"
The subtitles are removeable, and the English in them is ok. Unfortunately there are several grammar errors throughout, and possibly a few spelling mistakes. The latter I'm not too sure about, as it may have been the bad grammar which caused the apparent spelling error. Regardless, it is a shame as everything else about the DVD is top notch, and it really would have been the icing on the cake had the subs been perfect too.
The film print is nigh on flawless in my opinion. It looks great. The colours a bright and vivid, picture clarity appeared to be very sharp, there was no obvious clolour bleeding, and I don't recall seeing much grain, blemishes or anything else wrong with the print. For me the anamorphic print was excellent.
"Now this is one pwerful shot!"
DVD & Extras
For extras, there is a nice healthy dose of options to choose from. There is Star Files on Stephen Chow, Ng Man Tat and Vicki Zhao all of which are relatively short, but interesting. Then there is a 20 minute Making Of... which features english subtitles!!!! Yes!!! This is really good to watch, as it features interviews with Stephen Chow and other cast and crew members. It shows a lot of the scenes being filmed, and lets you see where special effects were used. All in all, I thought this was a very good featurette. Next up there is a photo gallery, something whic some people may like, but it isn't something I am bothered by. After that is NG Footage, or what westeners probably no more as out-takes, or a blooper reel. This is exactly the same footage as the out-takes at the end of the film if you watch the Special Version. The only difference being, in the film, you get English subtitles for it, on this extra, there isn't any subtitles. Lastly there is a mini featurette on how a lot of hte special effects were created. Firstly showing the complete sequence, then showing the different layers which were used, i.e. the real life action, then the first layer of CG, then the next etc. Very interesting and entertaining! Shaolin Soccer, in my opinion, scores very highly for extras.
"Oi!! You at the back, fix that stance!"
Overall, Shaolin Soccer is possibly one of the better DVD releases to come out of Hong Kong in quite a while. Not only is the film of a very high standard, but the dvd itself has a good helping of extras, and is very well presented. I don't know what else to say about the film which I haven't already mentioned previously. For the price, this is probably one of the best DVDs out there that you can buy. So BUY IT!!!
"And my walk is sexier than my look!"
Buy this film at