I had the chance to watch Shaolin Soccer the other day. It was all in Chinese, but fortunately there were subtitles. Unfortunately, the subtitles were in Korean. Still, I have to say I enjoyed watching. Like Stephen Chow’s other films (I’ve only seen three, the other two being CJ7 and Kung Fu Hustle, both of which I also recommend) this is a fun and creative take on the genre. Despondent after the death of their master, a group of kung fu experts go their separate ways. Most are unhappy with their life outside of Kung Fu. Enter “Golden Leg” Fung, former great soccer player who arrogantly abused those around him during his career. During a game he missed the game winning penalty kick, he is brutally beaten by fans and receives a career ending injury (no wonder the Chinese don’t have a good soccer team). Years later he is poor and working as a servant to his now rich former teammate whom he had been so abusive towards before. This part was interesting. The now rich guy was obviously the bad guy, but I felt a twinge of justice being served. I didn’t hate the bad guy and I didn’t really like the good guy. You do feel sorry for him, but there isn’t much to like. It makes for an interesting viewing experience. One day “Golden Leg”, who had just been denied his chance to coach a soccer team for his boss in an upcoming tournament, comes across a homeless Stephen Chow, part of the group of kung fu experts I mentioned before. I don’t want to ruin it by telling the whole story here, but suffice it to say, Golden Leg convinces Chow to recruit his former (now aged) kung fu brothers onto a soccer team to compete in the tournament. This recruitment process is fun to watch, as they are each resistant at first. Chow has a good sense of humor that he weaves well into the story. Also fun are the training sequences and the competition scenes. By far my favorite moment in the film is during their first tournament match. The opposing captain laughs when he sees the rag-tag looking group of old guys facing him. We hear the whistle blow as we see him laughing, and then behind him we see the ball bounce into the net. The timing was great! Hilarious.
A more interesting point from my martial artist’s standpoint is that kung fu (and martial arts in general) apply to every aspect of life. As Master Han said in the re-released Karate Kid, “We practice kung fu in everything we do.” While martial arts is not for everyone, it does seem to be for everything. I cannot think of an aspect of my life that is not aided through my martial arts training. This theme is present throughout the movie.
It is a fun film. You should watch it. I intend to do so again with English subtitles next time.