The Supporters are the best part of ’The Bromley Boys’ (2018)

The Bromley Boys (2018)

As an American, I sometimes have a terrible time understanding British humor. The Bromley Boys is one such case. Which in this year of 2020 is quite sad, because I really need cheering up.** Having enjoyed the youtube series Seaside Town by Warren Dudley, I expected his screenplay for The Bromley Boys to be equally fun.

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Social change through ‘Zanzibar Soccer Dreams’ (2016)

Zanzibar Soccer Dreams (2016)

Watching Zanzibar Soccer Dreams via the virtual 2020 Women Sports Film Festival, I suffered a little deja-vu, wondering if I had already seen this film. It turns out that this documentary, by two professors in the UK, came out only a year after New Generation Queens: A Zanzibar Soccer Story was released by a couple of young American women. I saw both films through the WSFF.

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2 digits of excess in ‘Hello Mr Billionaire’ (2018)

Hello Mr Billionaire (2018) aka  西虹市首富 or Xi hong shi shou fu or  The Richest Man in Xihong City

With a box office of $367M, Hello Mr Billionaire would be the most successful soccer movie yet. If it were really a soccer movie. But regardless, this comedy demonstrates the power of Chinese films in the Chinese market. In 2018, TheNumbers listed it at #27 worldwide, but if listed in the 2019 international BoxOfficeMojo ranking, Hello Mr Billionaire would be #25, right after Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

The plot – sort of

In the story, a goalkeeper with no money and no skill plays for a recreational soccer team but gets booted off. Then he finds out he is the only heir of a long-lost relative. To receive all of the 30 billion yuan inheritance, he must spend ¥1B in one month under a lot of restrictions, such as no charities, no destruction of stuff, and no one can know his purpose. The rules mean that he has to get very clever to spend so much money.

Of course, one of the first things GK Wong (Teng Shen) does is get himself back on the team by upgrading their facilities to FIFA quality. Then he arranges a FIFA quality team for them to play against at the end of the film.

Inbetween the beginning and ending football scenes, the movie pushes inordinate consumption to the max with fabulous meals in a fabulous hotel and fancy cars. With unlimited money, blunderers get opportunity. He gives his feckless sidekick business management responsibility. In a TV show similar to America’s Shark Tank, the GK funds every contestant’s screwball business opportunity. He romances the female accountant who is tracking his spending and writing the checks, by hiring her favorite singer for a concert and putting on a city-wide fireworks show.

GK Wong matures and develops some endearing traits along the way, and though he can be both comical and smug, 2 hours of Michael Jackson-esque materialism is tiresome. It’s also annoying to know that growing income disparity allows a select few people and kleptocrats around the world to actually live this way. Based on the story of Brewster’s Millions, it’s a situation that is increasingly less funny these days. But that didn’t stop it from being a huge hit in China.

On the other hand, the rom-com Crazy Rich Asians also came out in 2018 and made $267M worldwide. So ultra-rich characters make better escapism than I appreciate.

The soccer

I said this wasn’t really a soccer movie, and maybe that’s unfair when it has as much as 20 minutes of football in it. But football is only used to set the context of a man who is inept at everything, even the game about which he is so passionate.

Screenshot of fans cheering on the losing Daxiang team
Fans cheering on the losing Daxiang team

Originally the story was going to be about a baseball player. And supposedly the directors only kept the soccer footage in the film because they had spent so much effort on it. Maybe if they had kept it out, the film would have made even more money?

The ending soccer segment is 16 minutes long as the GK’s Daxiang team plays against Hengtai in a stadium full of Hengtai fans. After giving up 8 goals in the first half, the team tries to prevent Hengtai from achieving its target of scoring in double digits. As the Daxiang players form a Great Wall in front of the goal and sacrifice their bodies to defend their team’s honor, even the crowd is swayed. In the final minutes, all the fans and even the announcer chant “Daxiang, hold on”. (The Daxiang fan section is in yellow in the screenshot.) 

Behind the film

In researching the film, I was surprised to learn that production company Mahua Fun Age, possibly also known as Happy Twist, started off as a traveling theater troupe in China. Once they moved into the film business and became so successful, they pulled in private investors and are quite the complicated organization. Like most entities in China, it is almost impossible to find much information, but this posting on baidu has a lot of details about the film. In China it was known as The Richest Man in Xihong City.

One of the angles on the production is that they were sued for plagiarism. Another team of writers claimed they had shopped their story around, and Mahua Fun Age had not compensated them for using their ideas. The claimants lost their case in court, and I wonder if that was partially due to the inclusion of so much soccer in the film, which was not part of the claimant’s original idea.


The film’s success has made it a case study. I found a 2019 academic paper using the dialog to explain the goals of sub-title translation. For example, in Chinese, “抱负” refers to one who is ambitious, but it is pronounced the same as “暴富”, meaning one who becomes rich overnight. It makes a play on words that is lost to the non-Chinese speaking audience, but would get a lot of laughs in a Chinese theater.

The imperfection of translation is why I entitled this review “2 digits of excess”. Throughout the soccer game, the star opponent keeps holding up 2 fingers in a V sign and urging his team to go for “2 digits”. I was flummoxed until I realized the translator meant going for a double digit win, or at least 10 goals. Or maybe “2 digits!” is a common chant in China?

I also spent some time trying to locate the lavish French Louis XIV hotel in the movie. I assumed it was another example of China’s copycat architecture and a tourist spot. But after a fruitless search, I decided the exterior is a photoshopped building. If anyone knows differently, please send me a link!

5 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 5


It’s better to pass than to try ‘Shooting for Socrates’ (2014)

Shooting for Socrates (2014)

The problem with Shooting for Socrates is that the football is really a backdrop for writing a feel good story about the Troubles in Northern Ireland. And while sport as metaphor is the motivation for many soccer movies, in this case, the film doesn’t find its chemistry and feels like oil and water. Categorized as both drama and comedy, the film feels like neither.

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ESPN falls flat with ‘Mysteries of the Jules Rimet Trophy’ (2014)

ESPN 30 for 30 logo

It’s hard to believe that Brett Ratner, director of the Rush Hour franchise, put together the worst ESPN 30 for 30 segment that I have seen. Mysteries of the Jules Rimet Trophy covers all the facts, but the production is flat, and the importance of the artifact is blown way out of proportion. It’s almost facetious. It’s not the Holy Grail, it’s a small piece of metal of a woman holding up a cup. It’s not even gold.

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‘Foul Play’ (2017) – it’s easy to fix matches in Indonesia

Director Suridh Hassan put together this documentary about corruption in Southeast Asian football, mostly covering Indonesia. He follows the season of UK manager Simon McMenemy, who coaches Indonesian side Mitrar Kukar FC. He also conducts interviews with a youth coach, a physio, and a journalist who explain how easy and pervasive match fixing is in the area. The bottom line is: Don’t bet on games in Indonesia and Singapore.

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‘Diamantino’ (2018): A satire or just randomly disturbing?

Diamantino (2018)

Great expectations make a heavy burden. After Diamantino’s smashing 2018 premiere at Cannes, I eagerly looked forward to it for over a year. It is now available to rent/purchase on iTunes and Amazon, but the typical football film and soccer movie fan may end up wanting to reverse the last 90 minutes of their lives. 

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‘Kaiser’ (2018) perpetuates a lad’s fantasy

Kaiser: The Greatest Footballer Never to Play Football (2018)

Imagine you’re at WC 2014 in Brazil, and you hear this great story about a legendary local lothario. Known as Kaiser, Carlos Henrique Raposo pretended to be a pro footballer and lived the life for over 20 years. He slept with thousands of women, conning the ladies, owners, and coaches, while cleverly avoiding ever getting on the pitch. 

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Where did ‘United We Fall’ (2014) go wrong?

United We Fall (2014)

As viewers, we sort of expect that a mockumentary will play out, as Bob Balaban has described, like “spending time with a bunch of really funny and totally harmless mental patients.” Christopher Guest set a very high bar for mockumentary, and I have no doubt that, when Writer-Director Gary Sinyor outlined his plan for United We Fall, he hoped his football comedy would reach similar heights of hilarity.

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Don’t bet a leg on ‘Shui Hu the Soccer Heroes’ (2006)

Shui Hu The Soccer Heroes (2006)

Talk about strange. I found Shui Hu, The Soccer Heroes ( 水浒足球 ), an anime Chinese DVD, in my county library system. The animation is quite crude and similar to Captain Tsubasa, so that I thought this film must be from the early 1980s. Instead, this feature length cartoon from Hong Kong was produced in 2006.

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La Pena máxima is watching ‘Penalty Kick’ (2018)

Penalty Kick (La pena Máxima) (2018)

Mariano, an ardent fan of la Selección, passionately believes that Mexico always wins when he is at the game at Azteca to cheer them on. In a home-and-away series with the USMNT to qualify for the World Cup, Mariano (Adrian Uribe) bets all his savings on Mexico.

But on the morning of the deciding home game, his uncle dies. Mariano and his brother desperately try multiple deceptions to escape the funeral service and get to their seats in Azteca. As the game progresses, they try to at least find out the score.

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