Shaolin Girl

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“Shaolin lacrosse, rather than soccer.”

Shaolin Girl photo 02Rin Sakurazawa (Shibasaki) has been training in shaolin kung-fu for over eight years. When she returns to Japan, she finds her dojo abandoned and derelict, and her former master Kenji Iwai (Eguchi) is now working as a cook in a local restaurant. She is recruited by a waitress there, Minmin (Yuqi). for the lacrosse team at the local Seikan University, but learns some harsh lessons on the nature of teamwork The university president, Yuichiro Oba (Nakamura), has another agenda, and seeks to draw Rin over to the dark side, by getting her to use her skills for more violent ends which he can then exploit. But it turns out that she was sent to China for good reason…

After the recently reviewed Beach Spike took volleyball to extremes, albeit to dubious effect, the inspiration here is equally obvious. That’s clearest during the end credits, when a lacrosse shot does exactly the same “turning into a fiery dragon” thing as in Shaolin Soccer. Still, despite having Stephen Chow as executive producer, and the presence in minor roles of a couple of actors from Chow’s Western breakout, in Chi Chung Lam and Kai Man Tin, this does go its own way for much of the film. Fortunately, it doesn’t try to reproduce the “plucky bunch of underdogs” story, which Soccer was affectionately parodying. This is far more about Rin’s personal journey of enlightenment, as she realizes there’s more to that than simply the physical aspects. Indeed, if you’re looking for action, the first two-thirds of this will be pretty disappointing, and even the lacrosse games aren’t very interesting.

Things certainly perk up in the final act, Rin eventually being provoked – mostly through attacks by Oba’s minions on everyone she cares for – into an assault on the villain’s lair. This appears to bear some relation to Bruce Lee’s unfinished Game of Death, as she works her way up through a pagoda, to the top level where she faces Oba, and… Well, things veer off into Matrix territory, with Rin apparently being The One, or something. If heavy on the CGI, it’s certainly spectacular, with the water effects being particularly lovely. All told, I didn’t mind this: it struck a nice balance between the elements, and it’s a winning performance from Shibasaki. However, it certainly suffers in comparison with its predecessor, and it appears clear Chow’s work on this, involved little more than cashing the cheques.

Dir: Katsuyuki Motohiro
Star: Ko Shibasaki, Tôru Nakamura, Kitty Zhang Yuqi, Yosuke Eguchi

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