Customer Reviews: Champions
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on December 30, 2013
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on January 7, 2013
I enjoyed the movie and the meaning behind it concerning the 2008 Olympic Games. I wish it were English dubbed, but other than that it was a inspiring movie of overcoming adversity for something greater than yourself.
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on April 16, 2012
In theory, "Champions" should have been at least a modest international success. Released shortly after the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, the movie based on the formation of China's first national martial arts demonstration team in the early 20th century is so rich in national spirit that you'd think its distribution would have matched Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Alas, the movie didn't turn up in North America for a full two years following its original release and even now is barely known on the straight-to-DVD market - something I think is largely due to the flightiness of the movie's storyline and the fact that, despite its subject matter, it just fails to carry any amount of weight.

The story: a martial arts stable, led by the Master Cheung Chi-Kong (Rongguang Yu), must overcome daunting financial, political, and physical problems en route to preparing the first-ever kung fu team to be featured at the Olympic Games.

The film is directed by Siu Ming Tsui (Shaolin & Wu Tang 2 - Wu Tang Invasion), and I must admit that he makes an honest effort at making a minor epic: CGI is utilized, as is an orchestral soundtrack, the cast rivals a BBC miniseries for breadth, and the movie has a surprisingly long runtime of approximately two hours. In that last aspect lays my first major complaint: the movie is way too long. Ninety minutes would have been plenty of time to tell the main storyline while still including one or two of the more interesting subplots, but instead, at least half an hour is given over to padding and side-stories. When the movie is supposed to be about Olympic hopefuls, why are we concerning ourselves with kidnapped babies and jealousy between sprinters? The cast does its best but can't really hold your attention: Rongguang Yu contrasts his Karate Kid character by proving that he can play a benevolent sifu as well, but both he and former kung fu child star Miu Tse (The Enforcer) aren't given nearly enough screentime; the same cannot be said for ol' Dickey Cheung (Last Hero in China), who tries so hard to be funny and likeable but ends up getting on your nerves.

The action is hit & miss, but it's safe to say that anybody who's seen a Yuen Woo Ping feature of the last decade has already experienced everything the movie has to offer. Though commendable for thoroughly showing off a few animal styles (particularly praying mantis and eagle claw), the fights generally all return to wire-aided wushu for better or worse. Rongguang Yu's two major fights are the exception, as he engages Xiang Dong Xu (Wing Chun) is a series of strikes, holds, and counters. Overall, I won't say that the fight content is poor - I actually really enjoyed the warehouse brawl-for-all near the end of the film - but there's nothing here to genuinely impress anyone who isn't a total newcomer to the kung fu genre.

The movie's strong patriotic sentiment is inoffensive but more than a bit corny: more than once, the script has the cast chanting "Go China! Go China!" in unison. What impressed me more was the point it made concerning unity among differing martial arts schools, advising that wanton competition between them will lead to self-cycling hatred - something you clearly see in both kung fu films and the modern world. Cumulatively, this adds up to an acceptable movie that's nonetheless far from the grand standard the filmmakers probably imagined when they started this project. Check it out if the subject matter interests you, but otherwise find something else.
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VINE VOICEon August 22, 2012
Inspirational" or "feel good" stories of remarkable human ability--films like these are almost too numerous to even try to name a few. Lately, action-starved Hong Kong cinema has been clamoring for more martial arts action films. Well, Tsui Siu-Ming's "CHAMPIONS" (2008) combines the elements of sportsmanship, friendship, love and dreams--this is a somewhat fictional account of the true story when Chinese Martial Artists wowed the world and created a kung fu frenzy throughout Europe, although kung fu wasn`t a competitive event in the Olympics. It may follow the same formulas established by films such as "Remember the Titans", but one thing is different from those films is the fact that Tsui's film is incredibly action-packed--instead of relying on emotion and melodrama, it relies on numerous martial arts sequences and its old-school if over-the-top feel makes it very fun to watch.

1936, China. Chinese athletes all over the country dreams of representing their country in the Berlin Olympic Games. However, the Chinese government will only commit half of $ 600,000 to sponsor the athletes to go abroad. It now falls on the athletes to raise the other half by themselves. A self-proclaimed descendant of the Tai Chi master, Cheung Fung (played by Dicky Cheung) possesses remarkable skill but was never inspired to put his skills to good use--until he met a young female sprinter named Ngan Ling (Priscilla Wong), who is in fact the person who holds the national record in sprinting. In order to win her heart, Fung must lead the way for the athletes to raise $ 300,000, join the Olympic team, and under the tutelage of Master Cheung Chi-Kong (Yu Rong-Guang), Fung must fight his way up and beat fighters from other martial arts schools. His quest for victory will eventually lead everyone to discover that there is more to life than kung fu.

The film is supposed to be inspirational and it does have the usual clichés, but the script does get its message across. However, the film is a little tactless and Tsui definitely didn't even try to be subtle. The film's screenplay lacks discipline, as its main plot seemed to be burdened by many other underlying set pieces, and other unnecessary subplots to set up the action sequences. The result is the characters don't have time to breathe and whatever emotions they manage to achieve felt very trivial. All the film's elements are "souped-up" and it felt as if it is trying too hard to cover too much ground. The film should have a nominally sound inspiring script, but much of it is almost ignored when you have a kidnapping, an enraged nephew, a rivalry between schools and slapstick comedy that just manages to get all the attention through its long-winded execution that feels very choppy.

The direction isn't really great and is rather crude to exude eminence and too conservative to impress. The film is a little charming with its themes of inspiration and friendship, but it is too melodramatic to maintain momentum that emotions are too pretentious. I guess the film does have its old-school charm, but it definitely lacked discipline. Tsui may have been aiming to make the audience laugh, cry and cheer--what I say is why ask too much? Be simple and focused in the direction of the screenplay and even the simplest plot will feel very solid.

Now the action sequences may have its own share of over-the-top bombastic nature but it didn't bother me too much. The fight sequences are very fun to watch, they may be a little exaggerated, and uses a lot of wire-fu but still maintains that old school wuxia feel with the movement of the arms. The blows do look like they're connecting and the encounters between "Praying Mantis and Tiger paw and Eagle's Claw" may prove very diverting. But however exciting and very numerous the fight scenes are, most of them felt quite unnecessary, and Tsui just puts them in even though it was inappropriate to the movie's plot. I do like the displays of martial arts prowess by Masters On, Hon and Cheung--heck even Dicky Cheung had his moments; but it all also feels very superficial and quite forced.

Siu-Ming Tsui's "Champions" would still prove entertaining to action junkies and those who enjoy totally bombastic execution would be right at home. The director/co-writer/ co-fight choreographer was aiming too high--he aims for action thrills, tragedy, comedy, national pride, and melodrama that his direction became too unfocused and unrefined. The plot felt a little too heavy-handed and pretentious. The film may have forgotten to be a little subtle, its execution never allowed its plot to settle down and for its characters to breathe. Oddly enough, it remains very watchable because of the martial arts action and its old-school charm that emulates nostalgia.

Recommended with caution, RENT IT first. [3 Out of 5 Stars]
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on March 10, 2013
It has teenagers as stars, that wise crack and dance all through the film. It is NOTHING like what the trailer implies it is...NOTHING at all!
They try to save the bad acting and awful script with a million sound affects and corny music at ever turn, but it's still a B-class low level film I hope I never see again.
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on February 27, 2014
This is a good movie for martial arts likers/lovers. There's plenty of action, there's also a very good storyline. I enjoyed watching this movie.
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on December 18, 2012
This a good Wushu movie, a lot of incredible moves and so pretty. If you like martial arts check this movie out Yu Rong Guang from Iron Monkey.
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on February 28, 2015
Good movie another Wu Shu film which based on real events some history about how they got to compete for the Olympics.
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on December 15, 2011
This is well done movie, good characters and good music, not bad acting. A house divided can not stand, but a house united can conquer the world.

To bad it was in sub-titles. Why not English?. Amazon always put it our in Mandarin, when there was probably an English audio track. Rent this movie, you will really enjoy it.

My respect for China has just gone up, but I still think Korean food is the best. I love kimchee. I have great respect for China as a world power,

I just wish they would include all the rest of the people, in their endearment to become a superpower. A true democracy of equal rights and protection under the law.

Not for some, but for all.


I'm almost positive, I've seen this movie a few years ago. I wonder
if they just re-issuing it?
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on October 28, 2014
Wish there was one in Cantonese.
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