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Beach Spike
Beach Spike

Chrissie Chau gets ready to serve in Beach Spike.
Chinese: 熱浪球愛戰
Year: 2011
Director: Tony Tang
Producer: Bey Logan, Wong Wing-Fung
Writer: Leung Mong-Fung, Tony Tang, Chan Pak-Nin
Cast: Chrissie Chau Sau-Na, Theresa Fu Wing, Jessica C, Phoenix Valen, Him Law, Lam Chi-Sin, Lam Suet, Candace Yu On-On, Lo Meng, Sharon Yeung Pan-Pan, Philip Ng Won-Lung, Jeana Ho Pui-Yu, Dominic Ho Hou-Man, A. Lin, Dada Lo Chung-Chi, Hidy Yu, Rika Wong
  The Skinny: This mucho-marketed beach volleyball film tries to serve too many demographics and ends up satisfying none of them. Beach Spike has few highs and too many lows to make it anything besides a below-average time killer. Even the babes in bikinis aren't that interesting.
by Kozo:
Beach Spike has babes, bikinis and [volley]balls, so your initial expectations are valid. This is the story of beach-dwelling, navel-baring cousins Sharon (Chrissie Chau) and Rachel (Theresa Fu) and how they compete in a narratively flimsy beach volleyball tournament. At stake is their childhood home Pui Long Bay, which is being threatened with redevelopment by the neighborhood’s wealthy overlords, Mrs. Brewster (Candace Yu) and her three children Natalie (Jessica C), Natasha (Phoenix Valen) and Tim (Him Law). Mr. Brewster (Bey Logan via photo cameo) is deceased, and given current events it seems his dream of seeing the neighborhood united in harmony will not come to pass. Of more pressing concern: the identity of Tim's real father, because there is no way that Him Law and Bey Logan could ever be genetically related.

Still, after tallying everything in Beach Spike that doesn't really work, Tim's true parentage doesn’t even qualify as a blip on the radar. Beach Spike is a commercial trifle of a film that tries to serve three separate demographics: young females who dig "young love on the beach" stories, randy guys who salivate over chesty models Jessica C and Chrissie Chau, and action fans who enjoy anything with kung-fu. If one were to draw up a Venn diagram showing the crossover between those three target audiences, you’d probably find a rather small area – and the film confirms that incongruity by being completely underdeveloped and unable to commit to any of the genres it dabbles in. The result is a movie that tries to do too much and ends up doing nothing very well. At least they cast Lam Suet.

Further plot for those who require it: the high stakes volleyball match over Pui Long Bay occurs because of some deal between the Brewsters and the local villagers, who got on famously years before. The next generation aren’t so friendly, however. Despite Sharon and Rachel being free of any character flaws, Natalie and Natasha regard them disdainfully, especially after their brother Tim has the audacity to *gasp* date Sharon. This leads Tim to abandon his family immediately for a girl he’s met only twice in his life. Meanwhile, Sharon and Rachel discover that they're not a match for the toned and tough beach volleyball duo of Natalie and Natasha. Luckily, the two augment their serving and spiking with some kung fu, courtesy of local masters Mr. and Mrs. To (Lo Meng and Sharon Yeung Pan-Pan). Then there’s a climactic volleyball game and also a lesson! Movies cannot get better than this.

Actually they can, and it starts with consistent writing, decent acting and competent filmmaking – all of which Beach Spike lacks. Too much is crammed into only 97 minutes of summer moviegoing, meaning truncated, underdeveloped storylines and the occasional "WTF" moment. Tim and Sharon's supposedly cute romance is uninteresting, as is Rachel's longtime relationship with mouthy slacker Walter (actually "Water", and played by Lam Chi-Sin). The sports portion is also unremarkable, with little tension leading up to the final game. Leads Chrissie Chau and Theresa Fu are serviceable, but Jessica C is glaringly awful, with co-stars Him Law and Phoenix Valen only passing because they often act with Ms. C. The supporting players are fine. Candace Yu outpaces her co-stars by a wide margin; if any of Beach Spike's half-baked plotlines manage to affect, it's only because Yu sells them so well.

Technically, the film is below par. Low budget or rushed schedule – who knows why, but Beach Spike possesses lousy lighting and cinematography. Some scenes are inexplicably dark, and the final volleyball tournament takes place under hot spotlights in a dark studio with only a handful of spectators in attendance – hardly convincing art direction. Making matters worse are the obvious visual effects, which are used for many long shots of the sports action. The CGI volleyball arcs with unconvincing heaviness, almost like it's weighed down by lead. ADR is the pits; if you're going to dub your actors, at least do it well. Philip Ng, who plays Natalie and Natasha's laughably intense volleyball coach, has what sounds like three different voice actors. Director Tony Tang does attempt a handheld long take to close his film, with a decently effective emotional result. Unfortunately, he and his crew neglect to adjust their exposure, meaning once again the actors are distressingly underlit and nearly impossible to see.

Beach Spike does earn some cred as a "so bad, it's so good" type of film, with the lousy acting and production values providing occasional giggles. Chief among the film's unintentional laughs are the many shots featuring girls getting full-on slammed by volleyballs. The film actually opens with a shot of Chrissie Chau getting smacked in the face in super slow-motion, her rippling cheeks and flying sweat making her resemble a character in a Warner Bros. cartoon. Each of the lead actresses gets one if not more of these volleyball facials – and it happens with such overdone orgiastic glee that it becomes hilarious. If only Tony Tang had been inspired enough to insert a shot of the ball smashing into Lam Suet's face or famously large gut in similar slow-motion. That gag is juvenile, but it would also be unexpected and funny, two things that Beach Spike rarely ever is.

Those looking for eye candy may also be put out. Despite the many babes and bikinis, the "male gaze" is largely subdued, the camera usually flashing by and rarely lingering on the girls' bodies. That’s a good thing for the film’s youth romance aspirations – because it’s not right to leer at wholesome young women – but the filmmakers botched that angle with their boring and underdeveloped characters anyway. And the martial arts? Just a wan copy of the Shaolin Soccer model, with some kung fu-enhanced moves but no over-the-top anime-inspired action. Couldn’t they have made this film more sexy, more surprising or more fun? Who knows, but they didn’t, so Beach Spike disappoints. It's a lame youth romance, a weak sports movie, and an unsuccessful babes-on-the-beach comedy. It's just a massive "meh." (Kozo, 2011)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Edko Films, Ltd.
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles

*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc
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