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Awesome Hong Kong Comedy – SHAOLIN SOCCER

SHAOLIN SOCCER is the culmination of Stephen Chow‘s peculiar brand of zany comedy, and the beginning of something new…

Stephen Chow spent the 1990’s churning out one silly comedy after the other, most of them watchable (Out of the Dark being the glaring exception), many genuinely entertaining in a WTF? sort of way, and three of them – From Beijing with Love, God of Cookery, and King of Comedy - foreshadowing the greatness he would achieve with his 2001 pièce de résistance, the incredible Shaolin Soccer. This is where it all comes together: his wild genre blending, ridiculous dialogue, and sublime silliness are pushed to the limit in this tale of a Shaolin monk who’s fallen on hard times and finds an outlet for his fanatic love of Kung Fu in the form of a disgraced ex-Soccer champ (frequent co-star Man Tat Ng). As an actor Chow’s at the top of his game, playing the same down-on-his-luck naïf he usually plays (his other persona, the smug jerk, would rear its head in 2004’s Kung Fu Hustle). But it’s as director that Chow really shines, exhibiting a creative and nuanced use of CGI-infused action with which he weaves one amazing set-piece into the next. Big budget Hollywood filmmakers could learn a thing or two from how Chow builds climactic scene on top of climactic scene, constantly outdoing himself and delivering visceral thrills as much as he tickles the funny bone. And what makes Shaolin Soccer even more satisfying is that it doesn’t hide or downplay its cultural identity – it revels in it, both in the storyline as well as in those mind-numbing moments familiar to fans of Chow’s earlier work and Hong Kong cinema in general (especially Wong Jing movies). Which makes Miramax’s manhandling of the American release so frustrating: after purchasing the film they aggressively edited it for content, stripping all the local flavor – often to the detriment of plot, adding a cheesy Disco/Hip-Hop soundtrack (check out the awful, too-obvious-for-words use of “Kung Fu Fighting” in the trailer above) and releasing the butchered version a full two years after its initial release. To treat an artist like Stephen Chow that way shows an unprecedented lack of respect – Chow’s early films feature extended homages to Hollywood blockbusters, so he’s obviously got love for us, and to pay thta love back with arrogant censorship and LOWEST COMMON DENOMINATOR bullshit… he’s the last person who deserves such treatment, especially when he makes a film that sets the bar for the new century. So yeah, make sure to watch the original version – and burn the American one if you ever see it in stores.

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