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Shaolin Soccer Review

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His own career ended by a horrific injury, Golden Leg Fung (Tat Ng) sees a chance for vicarious glory in the astonishing soccer skills of Sing (Chow). So Sing assemblesassembles his old buddies to take on the appropriately-named Team Evil...

★★★★★

Anyone with a vague familiarity with the internet is likely to have heard of Shaolin Soccer, since its combination of far-Eastern nuttiness and comic book action earned it a cult following as the Matrix of sports movies when it was released in Hong Kong in 2001. But even those who imported the original Region 3 DVD should check out this UK version.

For a start, English dubbing replaces the awkward, typo-ridden subtitles, while a cut of almost half an hour also helps — the story’s just too silly to stand for much longer than 80 minutes. With all the finesse of a Pokémon episode, it jerks between the personal tragedy of a crippled coach, a romance between fleet-footed Sing and a bun-maker (Zhao), and the personal retribution of a group of bizarre but skilled soccer players.

Still, the action more than makes up for that, coming care of Siu-Tung Ching, who choreographed the phenomenal sequences in Hero. It’s truly stunning, belying the film’s otherwise cheap look. Unbound by the laws of gravity or common sense, the soccer sequences rush the screen with a combination of brutal yet balletic leaps and slides, magically conjured tornadoes and even the odd fireball. Ridiculous, yes — but ridiculously entertaining.

A movie as empty-headed as your average Premier League player, but that doesn’t matter when the footie scenes are so fun and deliriously OTT.