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Full Strike
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Josie Ho and Ekin Cheng are badminton buddies in Full Strike.

Chinese: 全力扣殺
Year: 2015
Director: Derek Kwok Chi-Kin, Henri Wong Chi-Hang
Producer: Dang Wai-Bat, Fung Wai-Yuen, Fung Wai-Cheung
Writer: Derek Kwok Chi-Kin, Henri Wong Chi-Hang
Action: Jack Wong Wai-Leung, Chan Siu-Wah

Josie Ho Chiu-Yi, Ekin Cheng Yee-Kin, Ronald Cheng Chung-Kei, Edmond Leung Hon-Man, Wilfred Lau Ho-Lung, Tse Kwan-Ho, Lam Man-Chung, Siu Yam-Yam, Eric Kwok Wai-Leung, Philip Keung Ho-Man, Grace Yip Pui-Man, Michael Tse Tin-Wah, Brian Siswojo, Phat Chan, Leung Wing-Kit, Vincent Kok Tak-Chiu, Stephanie Che Yuen-Yuen, Jo Koo, Matthew Chow Hoi-Kwong, Helen To Yu-Fung, Harriet Yeung Sze-Man, Bob Lam, Kabby Hui, Yang Di, Bao Chunlai, Wang Lin

  The Skinny: Derek Kwok and Henri Wong’s chaotic badminton comedy is as funny as it is alienating. The unfathomable story and exhausting craziness drag things down but the anime-like direction and gags give it a boost. Not for everyone but postmodern audiences who dig esoteric, oddball humor – and can tolerate scads of wacky crap – should be served.
by Kozo:

After collaborating on the omnibus Hardcore Comedy, as well as a stop-motion short featuring Batman action figures (really, this happened), Derek Kwok and Henri Wong go the full-length feature route with the crazy badminton comedy Full Strike. Josie Ho stars as Ng Sau-Kau a.k.a. “Beast” Kau, the former “Queen of Hong Kong Badminton” who fell from grace after her violent temper tanked her career. Years later, Kau is a broken, overweight employee for her brother (Tse Kwan-Ho), who runs a restaurant and rightly berates her for her dazed attitude and temperamental outbursts. Kau is at rock bottom, but everything changes after she sees a meteorite shaped like a badminton shuttlecock. Afterwards, she encounters a homeless person who she believes to be an alien, and finally ends up at a run-down school operated by a trio of violent ex-criminals looking to regain their pride by playing badminton. Yep, the above is the premise for an actual theatrical motion picture.

The ridiculousness doesn’t end there. Kau’s initial meeting with ex-con Lau Dan (Ekin Cheng) and his gang, consisting of Lam Chiu (Edmond Leung) and Ma Kwun (Wilfred Lau), involves lots of screaming and psychotic behavior, and the whole thing is exacerbated by their perpetually drunk coach, Master Champion Chik (Lam Man-Chung), who chases people while brandishing two large cleavers. Kau rightfully wants nothing to do with this bunch, but the property for the school was coincidentally leased to the ex-cons by Kau’s family. Kau’s brother and her cousin Suck Nipple Cheung (Ronald Cheng) fear that the ex-cons plan further crimes, so they send Kau and Grandma Mui (Siu Yam-Yam) undercover at the school to root out any nefarious plans. At the same time, Kau finds the urge to play badminton again swelling inside her, so going to a school populated by psychotic badminton players may actually be fortuitous. However, Suck Nipple Cheung goes all in and decides to frame the ex-cons for theft. Wow, what a prick.

Nonsensical plotting, thy name is Full Strike. This is a manga-like sports story about a fallen athlete who regains her mojo thorough a variety of manufactured circumstances. The plot is noticeably convoluted and chaotic; the script goes to unreal lengths to intertwine Kau with Lau Dan’s gang, and complicates matters even further by having her constantly flip-flop. First she doesn’t want to be involved, then she does, then she runs away, then she returns. Whatever. Josie Ho’s performance is fine within each scene but overall her character makes zero sense. That problem is symptomatic of the whole film; there are some very funny moments but overall it’s unfathomable. Early on, especially, the action is characterized by lots of loud yelling and Looney Tunes-style violence, with occasional breaks for ironic asides that segue right back to more yelling and slapping. This hyperactivity can be alienating. If you can’t make it through the first 30 minutes, you may not be long for Full Strike.

The film offers themes but most developments feel perfunctory, like they’re items on a screenwriting checklist. Every character has an arc but few really resonate. Also, some pop philosophical musings about the ebb and flow of badminton, and how it can turn defeat into victory, come off as empty metaphorical hoohah. The film’s final message, about winning and losing, does manage some poignancy because the story actually builds to that point. Otherwise, the emotional content is largely unconvincing, and some plot digressions (especially a crime subplot involving Lam Chiu) are stretched out unnecessarily. However, when the wackiness works, Full Strike is a frenzied hoot. Kwok and Wong’s directorial style is very anime-like, with exaggerated pacing and reactions, and the character types make for frequently funny gags. Ekin Cheng’s Lau Dan has a righteous temper but his poor hearing makes him an inadvertent doofus. Wilfred Lau and Edmond Leung play overacting comic badasses with their own quirks (one can’t see and the other has only one hand), and both earn their share of guffaws.

However, none of the above actors wins the Best Wacky Character™ sweepstakes. Ronald Cheng is the runner-up in this category as the hilarious douche Suck Nipple Cheung, who’s nominally the villain but may be more likable than most of the “good guys”. The winner is musician Lam Man-Chung as the hidden badminton master Chik, who coaches the motley group to appear in the Fantastic Five Asia-Pacific Badminton Tournament, where they face Suck Nipple Cheung and Kau’s former doubles partner (Eric Kwok) in a climactic series of matches. Chik’s dialogue is random and rude, and delivered by Lam in a deadpan, sardonic tone that belies how illogical and nonsensical it is. Lam Man-Chung’s performance walks a perilous tightrope between annoying and inspired, but the actor nails it, turning in what’s probably the best current example of Hong Kong’s unique mo lei tau style of comedy. Also, Lam gets a hilariously epic puking scene. Who doesn’t like epic puking scenes?

Full Strike is an exceptionally self-aware film; besides the arch direction and mo lei tau, the film derives humor from the reputations of its actors. The characters played by Lam Man-Chung, Edmond Leung and Ekin Cheng (though not really Josie Ho) are funnier if you know about these people and their personas outside the film. Without that knowledge, the comedy loses a step but the sports sequences remain amusing. Full Strike offers anime-like badminton matches, complete with over-the-top techniques (some martial arts-inspired) and a cartoonishly tense tourney. It can’t compare to Asian sports comedies like Shaolin Soccer or Ping Pong – but is it better than Beach Spike or Kung Fu Dunk? Absolutely. This is an exhausting yet creative pastiche of genres and mediums that’ll readily entertain certain people, i.e., those that like exaggerated comedies with oddball characters, and have a high tolerance for wacky crap. As they say, tolerance is a virtue. Tolerance of wacky crap? Evidence of sainthood. And required for you to enjoy Full Strike. (Kozo, 4/2015)


• Derek Kwok and Henri Wong's stop-motion Batman short film, entitled Batman: Dark Knightfall, can be seen here.
• Disclosures: Full Strike was screened at the April 6, 2015 Charity Gala Premiere at the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre via a ticket given to the reviewer by Clement Cheng, Derek Kwok's co-director on Gallants (2010).

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region All NTSC
Vicol Entertainment Ltd. (HK)
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
*Also available on Blu-ray Disc
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