BEACH SPIKE Review
Sports movies are pretty easy to get right. Introduce a sympathetic protagonist or team for the audience to get behind and pit them against an evil antagonist whom we all want to see beaten. Perhaps throw in a romantic or emotional distraction to complicate matters, but ensure they're on the sidelines when they're needed most. Then just sit back and let the sport itself provide all the excitement and drama. You don't even need a popular sport. Successful and engaging films have been crafted around anything from ping pong to ballroom dancing and even spelling bees - provided they have well written characters and the sport in question is convincingly realized.
Among the numerous problems with BEACH SPIKE, Hong Kong's latest comedy vehicle for leng mo Chrissie Chau, is the film's noticeable lack of interest in beach volleyball, the sport upon which its action and drama hangs. When a wealthy widow plans to redevelop a quiet beach community, it's up to the local residents, including waitresses Sharon (Chau) and Rachel (Theresa Fu), to stop them. When the girls lose a beach volleyball game to the widow's daughters (Jessica C and Phoenix Valen), they demand a rematch. But this is to be no shoreline dust-up - instead both teams enter a local volleyball tournament, with the winners determining the fate of the beach. With this much emphasis placed on volleyball, one would expect a healthy proportion of the film to be given over to the sport, and while there are numerous scenes of various bikini-clad girls knocking balls around, at no point do we engage with the game itself.
Perhaps it is to my detriment that while watching BEACH SPIKE I often found myself bored by the innumerable close-ups of bums and cleavage and more concerned as to what the score was. During the climactic tournament we learn nothing about the other teams in contention and see precious little volleyball action ahead of the semi-finals. It will come as no surprise that both teams get through to the final decisive game, but it does beg the question - if we're not going to follow the team through the tournament, why bother having one? Why don't the girls just play each other again at the beach? We can only speculate as to the reasons for this, or why the tournament takes place in a sand-filled studio, rather than in a sports centre.
The film is not without its moments, however, and veterans Lam Suet and Yeung Pan Pan are always fun to watch. Lo Meng has the amusing role of guardian and coach to Sharon and Rachel, schooling them in kung fu ahead of their final showdown. Sadly the obligatory training montage is disappointingly brief, although we do see Chrissie and Theresa lion dancing in a paddy field and dragging large metal chains across the ocean floor - apparently perfect exercises for volleyball training. BEACH SPIKE spends way too much time with the evil Brewer family, made up of Yu On On and three polyglot siblings who seem incapable of speaking any language fluently. When brother Tim (Law Chung Him) falls for Sharon, it causes a rift between him and his evil sisters, but at least he's finally found someone with whom he can actually communicate.
Truth be told, Chrissie Chau is probably the best thing about BEACH SPIKE, and not solely because she's the most attractive person on screen. While her performance isn't much of a stretch, she is nonetheless convincing as a carefree beach babe. Theresa Fu and Lam Chi Sing offer likable support as her best friends, but elsewhere the cast of models and assorted pretty young things is bafflingly poor, clearly hired for their looks and availability rather than their talents of suitability for the roles they are playing. I am particularly concerned about the number of slo-mo shots of balls pounding violently into girls' faces. They are repeated with such fetishistic glee it's almost as if the filmmakers want us to take pleasure in seeing these beautiful girls take a beating. Either that or the intention is the more literal wish-fulfillment of simply wanting to see balls in faces.
For all its faults, BEACH SPIKE will most likely manage to attract enough adolescent males looking to escape the insufferable summer heat and stare at Chrissie's cleavage for the film to turn a modest profit. After a couple of weeks, however, it will most likely disappear, never to be heard from again as it isn't funny, romantic or sports-oriented enough to warrant further attention. It is, in the end, nothing more than a high concept excuse to get some hot girls to jump up and down in bikinis for the presumed amusement of its audience, and when it fails even to make that sexy or enjoyable, it's probably time to concede defeat and hit the showers.
- Tony Tang
- Felix Chan
- Leong Monk Fung
- Tony Tang
- Davina To
- Jessica Cambensy
- Phoenix Chou
- Chrissie Chow
- Theresa Fu