Kicking Grass: ‘Shaolin Soccer’ Review

Posted in The Screening Room by - June 02, 2016

With lightning fists and thunder punches, I’m pleased to present my first entry into this month’s June-Jitsu theme! Following the artsy and Herzogian month of May, June promises to be a free-wheeling, action-packed, bone-crunching and neck-cracking roller coaster of a ride. But, before you grab that white belt, go for the shin pads and soccer cleats instead, because despite being the first movie of Martial Arts Month, this one’s got quite a unique spin.

Shaolin Soccer is a 2001 martial arts film that concurrently acts as a sports and comedy movie. Now, putting aside any preconceived notions about martial arts movies already having a high rate of failure, and mash-up films aren’t all that great, open your eyes to the ridiculous fun that is Shaolin Soccer. Twenty years after pro soccer star “Golden Leg” was bribed into throwing a match and had his legs broken, the veteran calls on a young Kung Fu master and his Shaolin monks to take down the reigning champions of the National Soccer Cup: Team Evil. But don’t worry, the premise is the least absurd thing about the film – and that’s exactly why it’s amazing.

To describe the film’s unusual and massively useful comedy I could use some examples, such as a group of super-human martial arts masters scoring dozens of goals by using break-dancing, or jumping 30 meters into the air and shooting a high-velocity soccer ball propelled only by their diaphragm. Keep in mind that doesn’t even come close to the entertaining Seven Samurai parody fight. I suppose I could also describe the action as unapologetically 2000s, but the complete and utter disregard for the laughably incredible special effects adds a whole other dimension of hilarity. The personal face of moments are undeniably Tarantino-esque in style and harken back to the slapstick humor of old Warner Bros cartoons.

It’s important to note, however, that considering all the tips and nods to both Western and Asian cinematic stylings, from Spielberg to Kurosawa, as cheap or unoriginal is a mistake. If anything it’s an endearing display of affection from the director, Chow, that translates onto the screen well. Despite the supersonic kicks and Matrix homages, Chow’s film is a loving tribute to a variety of movies and stories, and the main character pretty much Bruce Lee kicks the ever-loving crap out of a bunch of thugs with a soccer ball, so there’s that too.

Final Say: Watch It

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When not drowning in school work or ignoring social obligations he enjoys watching movies on just about anything. Currently making his way through the cinema classics he hopes to one day write a novel, but he’ll probably end up playing The Witcher 3 instead.

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