The Champions (1983)

Posted in Reviews by - April 18, 2015
The Champions (1983)

Football has always been notoriously hard to capture accurately and dramatically on film, somewhat proven by the unlikely war romp Escape to Victory (which featured the strange pairing of Sylvester Stallone and PelĂ©). This Hong Kong comedy comes in the wake of Escape to Victory and utilises the superb ball control skills of footy fan Yuen Biao, playing a naive but proud country boy who makes it big in the competitive and lucrative world of soccer. His arch nemesis is Dick Wei’s Football King, who acts more like a mafia boss; chomping on big cigars in nightclubs, fixing matches and duffing up the opposition. Everyone is in on the wheeze, and the film takes a cynical approach to the so-called Beautiful Game, while getting its kicks from action sequences mostly played out on the pitch. The comedy is typically farcical, light and unrelenting: teeth are knocked out by wayward balls; there’s a fruit fight, a ballroom dance off and a snake down the trousers (it’s that sort of film). But it’s also dramatic when it needs to be. Yuen Biao is charming in the lead, although he essentially shares the limelight with Cheung Kwok-keung who plays his footballing buddy and the orphaned brother to a young Moon Lee. For a Golden Harvest and Yuen Clan collaboration with such a combative cast, the film is surprisingly lacking in any real martial arts action – yet the football sequences involve the sort of acrobatics you’re more likely to find in a kung fu school. So it’s a strange little film, really, and something of an enjoyable oddity.

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Editor and creator of Kung Fu Movie Guide and the host of the Kung Fu Movie Guide Podcast. I live behind a laptop in London, UK.

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