Saturday, January 11, 2014

Instant Action: Siu lam juk kau (Shaolin Soccer, 2001)

I played soccer, I don't remember it being anything like this!

Written By: Stephen Chow, Chi Keung & Min Hun Fung, & Kan-Cheung Tsang
Directed By: Stephen Chow

I'll give Siu lam juk kau one thing, it sure as hell isn't afraid to be gloriously over the top. Soccer balls caving in brick walls, goalies having their clothes burned off by the heat of a soccer ball hit like a rocket blast, and a fat guy who is so hungry he'll eat raw eggs off of a dirty shoe. Those are just three examples, and they aren't even close to the most over the top examples found in the movie. Siu lam juk kau goes all out, for its entire run time Stephen Chow's film consistently seeks the boundary of plausibility and moves past it some more.

That approach does lead to Siu lam juk kau being a very broad film. The comedy, the action, the acting, and the story all all exceptionally broad. Nuance isn't just a vague concept in Siu lam juk kau, such a concept doesn't exist period. This has its positives and negatives, and the two manage to pretty much cancel one another out. Having a character be so driven by food that he eats raw eggs off of a shoe is an example of broadness that is a negative within the film. At the same time having the love interest of the film show up near the end with a shaved head that makes her look like an alien, that's a broadness that is positive. Xiānshēng Chow manages to find a middle ground, an area where the over the top broad nature of the comedy can be both a good thing and a bad thing. That's an impressive feat because on numerous occasions Siu lam juk kau teeters towards being far too broad. But, the film always manages to counteract a negative with a positive, something unfunny with something funny, and that's one of the reasons that Siu lam juk kau is very watchable.

The other area where Siu lam juk kau excels is in its application of martial arts. The martial arts in Siu lam juk kau are also very over the top, but they are quite exhilarating to the eye. Realism is not what Siu lam juk kau is going for, instead what it's asking of its audience is to accept and enjoy what the film is providing. I was able to do that far easier with the action than I was with the comedy. The action choreography is very well done, and has an energetic charge to it. This allows the action to help the comedy, and in turn the action helps to increase the overall value of the film.

I wasn't blown away by Siu lam juk kau, many portions of the film did fall flat for me. However, more of the film worked for me than did not. I was able to look past the unappealing elements of the film, and enjoy Siu lam juk kau for the over the top slapstick action comedy that it is. Siu lam juk kau didn't leave me with a burning desire to see more from Xiānshēng Chow. But, in this one moment and for this one film I was impressed by what Xiānshēng Chow offered and had a good time watching his film. I'd say that makes Siu lam juk kau much more of a success than a failure, and time well spent with a movie.



Bill Thompson

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