Sunday, April 04, 2004


kickin' it

Peep: I originally wrote a review of this movie on my blog in November of 2001, which just goes to show you how long it took Miramax to finally get their shit together and release the film domestically (it came out this past weekend). I got some beef with Miramax over this since, namely since their pissy publicist blacklisted me over how I interviewed star Stephen Chow, but I still think the movie is worth watching (even though they American version is poorly edited and cuts a lot from the HK OG). Here's what I had to say back in '01:

Shaolin Soccer: While understandable, it's insulting to hear Stephen Chow (also spelled Chiau) referred to as the Hong Kong Jim Carey when, in reality, it's probably the other way around. Chow's actually become HK's biggest comic star behind Jackie Chan and with this film, he actually trounced Chan's Rush Hour 2 at the box office, setting all kinds of records despite the fact that the film opened in the middle of a massive typhoon season. Personally, while I really enjoyed Shaolin Soccer I didn't think it was nearly as funny as his Forbidden City Cop and some of my other friends still swear that his God of Cookery is one of the best HK films ever made (I disagree but I'm seemingly in the minority).

That being said, Shaolin Soccer is probably the biggest budget Chow has had to work with - $6,000,000 which isn't much by Hollywood studio standards but that's fairly blockbuster in Hong Kong, especially since half of it was spent on special effects alone. This is what sets this film apart from Chow's previous works - it's obvious that he threw a ton of money on the CGI effects, most of which are done pretty well even though they're painfully obvious (but not as bad as they are in Time and Tide. They're used to enhance the simple but accessible plot - a bunch of down-and-out Shaolin monks in modern-day Hong Kong turn to soccer as a way to make their fortune as well as promote Shaolin kung fu in everyday life. It's a great premise and makes for incredibly entertaining sequences where the monks use forms like the Iron Hand, Mighty Steel Leg and Weight Vest to run roughshod over their opponents. Yeah, it's another Seven Samurai retread but you probably won't stop to notice when you're busting your gut.

As usual, Chow stars as the lead (Sing) and he does just fine - a master of visual humor made all the better by the special effects that enhances his power. Plus, he's howingly funny when he lampoons other pop culture references - check the Saving Private Ryan homage, complete with Spielberg's special camera work from the war epic. The rest of the cast is likable, especially Vicki Zhao as Mui, a tai chai-wielding baker and HK comedy veteran Yut Fei Wong as Iron Head, Sing's Big Brother Number One.

My man Hayden just sent me this: A New York Times article about Chow and the movie.