NYAFF 2015: FULL STRIKE: There’s Finally a Badminton Sports Comedy

by Victor Pryor

The New York Asian Film Festival runs from June 26 to July 11. For more details, click here

Of all the sports that have come in for the old “underdogs sports movie” treatment, it’s somewhat shocking that badminton hadn’t been done until now.

Any game where the main piece is called a shuttlecock is a game that’s ripe for the Will Ferrell treatment.

So it’s gratifyingly perverse that Full Strike, the first sports movie about badminton, takes the game completely serious.

The movie itself? Goofy as could be. But the sport is treated with respect.

Full Strike is a frantic, madcap comedy that still manages to play by the hidebound rules of the sports movie genre. There are losers who need to learn to believe in themselves and become winners, there are a plethora of cameos by (presumably) the most famous real world players in the game; and, obviously, there’s a final match where honor and glory are on the line.

And breathe easy, gentle readers: yes, there are certainly montages.

Headlining the film are eternally floppy haired Ekin Cheng as Lau Dan, deaf ex-criminal turned wildly untalented badminton devotee; and Josie Ho as “Beast” Ng, a former champion who earned her nickname through her severe anger issues on the field.

It’s nothing that hasn’t been seen before, but there’s a certain reckless, poor-taste energy that’s deeply appealing. There are a great many gags revolving around the disabilities of Lau Dan and his former partners in crime turned teammates (one of whom only has one arm and the other of whom… has really bad eyesight). There is an extended projectile vomiting scene that tops Team America for sheer visceral grossness. And anybody with a low tolerance for repeated use of the phrase “Fornicate your mammaries” and for hearing the heroine referred to repeatedly as a “fat, lazy cunt” or an inspirational speech listing off a series of potential crimes including several increasingly elaborate types of sexual assault might just want to stay far, far away.

Though said people would be missing out on the downright brilliant portrayal of the villain, one “Suck Nipple” Cheung (he of the pageboy haircut and breast sexing utterances). Every moment with Cheung is hilarious, and he even gets a fair amount of emotional depth. Which is a pretty impressive feat for a movie that tries to wring guffaws out of a one-armed Chinese man being gifted with an African-American prosthetic arm.

But lapses in decorum aside, it’s hard not to respect how far the movie will go to make the viewer laugh. And further, not to marvel at just how gorgeously the actual badminton matches are shot. For a sport that lacks the immediate impact of football or boxing (inarguably our most cinematic sports), it’s remarkable just how much the cinematography and editing goose the pulse of the many, many scenes of shuttlecock back-and-forth.

The highest compliment due Full Strike is that besides being an effective sports movie, it’s also a worthy successor to the “anything goes” Hong Kong comedies of days past, albeit updated for more crass modern sensibilities. And while clearly that’s not the sort of thing that appeals to everyone, for those who are into it, it’s more than worth the effort to check out.

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