Champions, The (1983)


champions poster

After humiliating the son of his village’s wealthiest resident, Lee Tong (Yuen Biao) gets sent to the big city to avoid retribution. Things don’t go the way he plans however as he runs afoul of King (Dick Wei) the local soccer idol. Finding himself in need of money, he becomes a member of the grounds crew for King’s team and is subjected to daily torment. Training in secret, he develops great technique but is forced to leave when he discovers the team’s tendency to fix matches. Joining up with his friend Suen (vfhfj), he joins a legit team with the hopes of defeating King and his crew of corrupt players.
Director Yuen Chun-yeung helms this very entertaining but goofy sports comedy that should have Yuen Biao fans more than satisfied. With an energy and a certain reckless abandon when concerning storytelling, the film doesn’t get bogged down with silly things like realism or gravitas but instead lays on the goofiness with all the charm that only 80s HK comedies can.
Yuen Biao rocks the film with his infectious mix of amazing athleticism and comedic timing; his experience clear to audiences. Cheung Kwok Keung plays his best friend and has more than a handful of scene stealing moments, most notably a hilarious and fun tango/fight with Dick Wei and a handful of not so lucky lady dance partners. Wei himself plays a gloriously over the top villain whose delight in screwing with our heroes borders on psychopathic. I wished I loved anything as much as King loves being evil. Moon Lee briefly appears in a throwaway role as Suen’s sister but she’s mostly a non-entity which is a shame considering how much I like her work.
The action isn’t really martial arts per se, though there are two brawls that carry with them some great stuntwork and some very surprising kills. The film takes such moments without consequence and the fact that people get killed or maimed hardly has any bearing on later events. To think too much about it would ruin the point of the picture; that being a ridiculously funny and astonishing showcase for athletic ability for its stars.
One of the many films Yuen Biao starred in the 1980s, The Champions remained personally unseen until very recently. Considering how many great films starring Yuen Biao that have been released on DVD and Blu, imagine my surprise to see such a gem nearly 30 years old at this stage of my film development. Highly energetic and full of humor and fun, The Champions is the definition of lost classic. Deserving to be in the same category as more viewed films like Millionaires’ Express and Mr. Canton and Lady Rose, search it out and have a fully entertaining hour and a half.
You may enjoy this film if you liked: Shaolin Soccer, Rosa, Shanghai Shanghai

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Long time film lover and occasional writer. I watch anything and everything though I have massive love for the works of Shunji Iwai, Jackie Chan, Johnnie To, and Kinji Fukasaku. POP! POP!

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