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Directed by Adrian Kwan, previously responsible for the likes of “The Miracle Box” and the Sam Lee horror “Scaremonger”, turns his attention to the age-old sports underdog story with “Team of Miracles – We Will Rock You”. The film is based on the true story of the Hong Kong homeless football team, following them and their Christian social worker as they try to beat the odds and make it to the Homeless World Cup Finals in Germany. Featuring an amiable cast of familiar Hong Kong and Mainland faces, including Eric Suen and TVB actress Gigi Lai in her last cinema role, the film attempts to inspire and to put forward a universal message of courage in the face of adversity – and generally succeeds, if perhaps not quite in the way that Kwan may have intended.
The film revolves around Lantern Street in Hong Kong, where social worker Tung (crooner Eric Suen) has spent his life trying to help the homeless people who congregate there, supported by a friendly priest (veteran star Yuen Wah, whose career has enjoyed somewhat of a resurgence since his popular role in Stephen Chow’s “Kung Fu Hustle”) who had rescued him from the gutter as a child. As things are looking particularly hopeless, he hits on a new way to try and push them to better things, namely putting together a football team with the aim of competing in the upcoming Homeless World Cup. Of course, this isn’t easy, mainly since none them can actually play and have various problems of their own, though by pooling their efforts and supporting each other, it slowly starts to look like their dream may come true.
“Team of Miracles – We Will Rock You” makes for highly entertaining viewing on a number of levels. Although it does feature some overt humour, mostly in the form of slapstick gags, for the most part it is quite hilarious in a presumably unintentional fashion, mainly since it is so completely over the top in terms of melodrama and cheap sentiment, yanking rather than tugging at the heartstrings. Everyone, absolutely everyone has a sob back story and tragedy in their past, which is aired as often as possible, with lots of emotional flashbacks and slow motion scenes of characters crying in the rain or howling at the heavens.
The homeless people are a bizarre, colourful collection, none of whom are convincingly destitute – including a mad bagman who spends most of the film skulking in a box and threatening people with a knife, a drug addict comedy cripple (who basically just has a crooked neck) and an alcoholic ex-bus driver who plays football in his ragged suit. Believable or not, they are all likeable, and surprisingly do grow on the viewer as things progress. The film benefits hugely from an honest sense of camaraderie, and it is hard to fault its ‘don’t give up’ style message, though the Christian angle is a bit heavy handed at times. There are a few stabs at realism throughout, which along with some footage at the end of the real team do help to remind what the film is supposed to be about, thankfully without resulting in too much of a shift in tone. As a result, the film is big hearted and genuine throughout, and though it would be a stretch to call something this daft moving or emotional, it is effectively rousing.
Whilst the story is pretty basic and predictable stuff, right down to the final showdown and inevitable crunch moments which characters to defeat their own personal demons, it is told efficiently enough by director Kwan, and manages to remain engaging. Unsurprisingly, he packs in lots of motivational speeches (some of which are pretty odd), plus airings of the Queen song ‘We Will Rock You’, which again make for plenty of laughs. The football scenes, which occur mainly during the last third, are exciting enough, and though the film is no “Shaolin Soccer”, it manages to be suitably thrilling in its own way whilst remaining basically grounded.
As such, although obviously hard to take seriously, perhaps less so for a Christian audience, “Team of Miracles – We Will Rock You” is both entertaining and effective. Managing to somehow be both incredibly earnest and over the top at the same time, it fires home its message whilst ensuring that the viewer has a good time along the way, or at least has plenty of laughs – something pretty rare in the usually dull religiously inclined films.
Adrian Kwan (director) / Hannah Cheung, Adrian Kwan (screenplay)
CAST: Eric Suen … Cheung Kin-tung
Gigi Lai … Amanda Liu
Shiu Hung Hui … Szeto
Ka Wah Lam … Panther
Tats Lau … Ngau Wah
Jacky Man … Head
Kim-hong Tong … Sunny