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The Champions
Year: 1983
Yuen Biao and Cheung Kwok-Keung
Director: Brandy Yuen Chun-Yeung
Producer: Yuen Woo-Ping
Cast: Yuen Biao, Cheung Kwok-Keung, Dick Wei, Moon Lee Choi-Fung, Eddy Ko Hung, Chan Tin-Lung, Gam Biu, Yeung On, Tong Tin-Hei
The Skinny: Fun soccer action-comedy that's as messy and enjoyable as early eighties-Hong Kong Cinema gets. The Champions isn't a showstopper, but for fans of Yuen Biao, it's an absolute must.
Review
by Kozo:

     Yuen Biao is Lee Tong, a country bumpkin who scrambles for soccer superstardom in the 1983 action-comedy The Champions. Tong moves to the big city and, at the urgings of city pal Suen (Cheung Kwok-Kueng), tries out for a pro soccer team. Unfortunately, Tong is hated by the cartoonish King (slimy cinema villain Dick Wei), the avowed best soccer player in Hong Kong, who makes Tong the ball boy and locker room janitor instead of a regular player. Lee Tong needs the job, so he goes along with King, but he practices on the sly so that he'll be ready to go if he's ever given a chance. When King finally puts Tong in, he responds by becoming an instant star and singlehandedly winning the game. But King only used Tong because he was trying to throw the match, and Tong is kicked off the team for his troubles. But a guy of Tong's talent is bound to have suitors; he's quickly hired by a rival team who actually wants to win games. With his own team and buddy Suen at his side, soccer stardom starts to come easily. But will Tong ever be able to beat King?
     Despite the pedigrees of the stars (Yuen Biao, Dick Wei and Moon Lee), The Champions is actually not a martial arts film. Pretty much all the film's "action" is confined to soccer matches and brief moments of roughhousing, and nothing that goes on resembles the grandly choreographed kung-fu of producer Yuen Woo-Ping. On the other hand, the agility demonstrated by Yuen Biao both on and off the soccer field has much to do with his martial arts prowess, and is quite entertaining to watch. The casual athleticism and acrobatic soccer moves are performed without the benefit of special effects, and have a charm and excitement not unlike the old school martial arts flicks of the late seventies and early eighties. Yuen Biao is occasionally doubled, but the action directors hide the stunt doubles well. Even though nobody actually fights in The Champions, the soccer action more than compensates.
     On the other hand, The Champions is just like your typical early eighties Hong Kong films in that it's sloppy and cheesy, and totally without consequence. There are occasional moments of perfunctory drama, and bad guy King is a little too ridiculously evil. Still, these are deficiencies that one would expect from the "golden age" of Hong Kong films, where a film's story and dialogue were nowhere near as important as fast-paced silliness and entertaining athletic chutzpah. The Champions falls neatly into that category and breezes by with an entertaining charm that's both welcome and nostalgic. There's a lot of other stuff that doesn't really work here, like the unnecessary female lead (Moon Lee appears, and then disappears), the cardboard characters, and the sometimes shoddy acting, but it's all good. The Champions is so full of fun moments—like an impromptu Tango battle, or Lee Tong's initial foray onto the soccer field—that we can forgive a little sloppy filmmaking. It may not be a classic, but The Champions is fun, crowd-pleasing stuff that should be required viewing for fans
of Yuen Biao. (Kozo 2004)

Availability: VCD (Hong Kong)
Deltamac / Fortune Star
Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
English and Chinese Subtitles
 
image courtesy of Fortune Star
   
 
 
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