One Leg Kicking
Reviewed by Soh Yun-Huei
Directors: Eric Khoo, Koh Wei
Writing Credits: James Toh
Cast: Gurmit Singh, Mark Lim, Sharon Au, Moe Alkaff, Siva Choy, Robin Leong
Year Released: 2001
Rating: ** (out of four stars)
One Leg Kicking is a Singapore production that had many audiences looking forward to its opening, since its trailers aired about half a year ago. The local film industry has been flagging, and a comedy is possibly one of the better ways to revive the industry due to its mass appeal. Whats more, the film is about football and underdogs-made-good, again two rather popular and crowd-pleasing themes. One Leg Kicking also features a cast of highly recognizable faces, including Gurmit Singh, Mark Lee, Sharon Au, Siva Choy, Robin Leong, Fiona Xie et al, which could help ensure good box office takings as well. However, One Leg Kicking isnt as good as I hoped it would be, which could be largely attributed to Robin Leong and an uneven script.
Tai Po (Gurmit Singh) has been an aspiring soccer player since young, and would have made good as a Singapore youth player if not for a career-ending injury. Many years on, Tai Po has become an overachieving underachiever, and has had to bring up his two children alone since the death of his wife. His plumbing job doesnt pay well, involving manual labor and dealing with unsavory characters like his boss, Sonny Lee (Lim Kay Tong) and son Gavin (Robin Leong). He is partnered by ditzy tomboy Kim (Sharon Au), until Sonny employs an ex-convict by the name of Handsome (Mark Lee). Tai Po also has a good friend by the name of Vernon (Moe Alkaff), who is a performer in a pub, but is facing steady competition from the increasing popularity of karaoke.
A local football competition promises the winners a trip to the 2002 World Cup finals, and Tai Po and Vernon decide to try for the league. They assemble a motley crew of players for the Durian team, including themselves, Handsome and two mysterious Brazilian youth players. Through a coincidence, they manage to recruit an ex-star player turned destitute drunk, Samy Best (Siva Choy), as their coach. The Durians face strong opposition - Gavin is the captain of the hot favorite Cosmos team, and Sonny is willing to go to great lengths to help his son win. The Durian team has other problems - Tai Po has to ensure his children stay on the right path; Vernon is on the brink of losing his job; Handsome needs to keep his fiery temper in check; and Kim needs to vie with Sonnys daughter Gwen (Fiona Xie) for Handsomes attention. With so many distractions, would the underdogs be able to beat the odds and clinch the title?
One Leg Kicking is a comedy with a strong dose of drama, and the various comedians in the movie display their acting chops with relative aplomb. Gurmit Singh, Mark Lee, Moe Alkaff and Sharon Au all have their emotional moments, but one scene that features Gurmit reminiscing about his wife is particularly real and impressive. Sharon Au is very comfortable with her ditzy, mildly uncouth image, a persona she often adopts in TV programs, and Mark Lee seems to be playing himself. That said, One Leg Kicking also has its share of bad acting, mostly belonging to Robin Leong. Although Robin is not known to be a thespian in any sense of the word, he actively chews up the scenery in every scene he appears in. Someone should teach him the meaning of overacting, as he manages to do it with exceptional, irritating consistency throughout the show.
The story of One Leg Kicking is pretty generic, and has been the theme of many a sports movie over the years. It is still refreshing, however, to see a uniquely Singaporean spin to the story, and writer James Toh manages to work in many local aspects into the storyline. The humour in One Leg Kicking doesnt work all the time, but there are still several gems in the film. Unfortunately, there is one occurrence of toilet humour that I felt was out of place, and in rather poor taste as well. The film also depends on quite a few cameos to raise the laugh quotient (Jack Neo, Moses Lim, Kumar and Brian Richmond all make their appearance) - but they are funny only by association, and would not be humourous to audiences not familiar with the local entertainment scene.
Although the script works in a more melodramatic side to the comedy quite well, there seem to be too many subplots, resulting in a rush to resolve every issue in the final reel. In fact, there is so little time in the film proper to deal with all the subplots, that an additional expositional scene had to be worked in during the credit sequence (yes, stay for the credits). Director Eric Khoo, who has not been very active behind the camera since 12 Storeys in 1997, does a very down-to-earth job helming One Leg Kicking, solidly filming both the football sequences and the more passive scenes.
One bone of contention is with the exceedingly blatant product placements in the film (namely Starhub, Pizza Hut, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Taco Bell), where the products are worked in awkwardly to the story. For example, Tai Po tries to distract his children from clamoring for KFC by pointing to the sky - cut to a lingering close up of the Starhub blimp. It reflects the sad fact that sponsors have a huge say in local productions more than anything else. Lets hope this trend will die a natural death in the near future.
Final Word: A local production with relatively good production values, and a relatively enjoyable movie save for a few detractions.