When a group of Shaolin monks fail in city life, they form a soccer team under the coaching of a disgraced soccer legend.
Shaolin Soccer isn't just a sports movie, it is a sports movie that redefines the term. Part footy film, part comedy, part mystical fantasy, part martial arts action movie and part musical, that's right, I did say musical. Shaolin Soccer is hands down one of the most playful and fun films you'll see all year. And who else would dare to make such an ambitious and crazy film than one of Hong Kong's most successful comedy filmmakers, Stephen Chow (The King Of Comedy) puts his talents as a writer, director and performer to good use starring as Sing, a young Shaolin monk who wants to make the world a better place through the magic of kung-fu.
Ocean's 11-style Sing recruits a rag-tag team of monk brothers to play in the local soccer league - and a grudge match - with spectacular and utterly hilarious results. Shaolin Soccer has been called The Matrix of Soccer films with its wire work and mystics, although this film is definitely very tongue in cheek, from its Buddhist philosophies to its low-rent effects. It blends a variety of genres in the best way that comedy can and it has a beautifully-developed sense of not only popular culture (Eastern and Western), but camp as well, right down to the brief but brilliant drag queen scene, which is one of the funniest to grace the screen in ages. Set in the streets of Hong Kong and in its poor underclass, Shaolin Soccer also possesses a simultaneous yin and yang sense of the grotesque and the compassionate. While the sports circus is ticking away Chow pushes a little message into the mix. His character Sing meets a young girl (Li Hui) in a dead-end job. She works as a street vender making sticky buns and is cursed with not only poverty and unrealised dreams but a face full of acne. Sing sees her as she really is. Seeing the world as it really is one of the foundations of Zen and no doubt Shaolin.
With clarity of mind comes clarity of skin as we learn in Shaolin Soccer is by no means a perfect film. It takes a little while to get going and to get elements into place, but once it does there is no going back. This is a fabulous punk underdog movie with a massive sense of fun. It joins Shrek 2 as one of the funniest comedies of the year so far, with a killer ending.