KUNG FU SOCCER
(Siu Lam Juk Kau)
Stephen Chow is a particularly witty director. There is not that much of a plot to Shaolin Soccer everything is geared towards the acrobatics on the field. Chow is sometimes raucous and one-note in his slapstick the rest of the soccer team only exist as caricatured slapstick foils and there is a good deal of nonsense about people being smashed over the head with bottles and causing piles of toilet paper to fall over in the supermarket. At other times, Chow can be riotously funny. The final image of the film where everybody in the street is using kung fu to kick cars into parks, avoid banana skins and the wonderfully droll image of a group of business men hopping like praying mantises onto a double-decker bus is particularly hysterical. Stephen Chows films often come with a sophisticated level of meta-fiction there is one hilarious little scene where everybody in the street outside the bakery starts forming into a musical number before the bad-tempered owner snaps Get back to reality at them.
However, it is the visuals that make Shaolin Soccer. In recent years Hollywood has imported the high-energy Hong Kong martial acrobatics in films such as The Matrix (1999) and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) and a host of others that have copied such moves. In an about move, Stephen Chow borrows the moves back and returns them to Hong Kong cinema, albeit beefed up with a dash of CGI digital trickery. The film is filled with an array of flying mid-air kicks; people twirling in mid-air and on their heads; balls follow curving motions, impact with players and send them flying through the air; to wonderful images of the players frozen in meditation in mid-field. The film eventually mounts to an amazing climactic game with balls travelling through the air so fast they burst into flame, impacting with goalies and sending the goalie flying twenty feet through the net, or burning their arms and shredding their clothes with the friction, causing shock waves to ripple through the ground, leaving furrows in the dirt, whipping up tornadoes, even causing demonic forces and Yin/Yang shadow shapes to form in the air above the field. Chow even throws in a wonderfully hysterical kung fu baking scene. The result is one of the most unabashedly enjoyable and unpretentiously entertaining film-going experiences one has had in some time.