Sports movies are nothing new in the Asian cinema. But how often you get to see a sports movie that takes place in the world of badminton? Although badminton is one of the most popular sporting activities, especially in Asian countries like Malaysia and China, the subject was surprisingly unexplored in Asian cinema over the years. However, come 14 May, director Derek Kwok (“Journey To The West: Conquering The Demons”, “As The Lights Go Out”) and co-director Henri Wong teams up with popular Hong Kong actors Ekin Cheng, Josie Ho and Ronald Cheng in a badminton-themed comedy called “Full Strike”.
To coincide with the upcoming release of “Full Strike”, let’s take a look back at the five selected best sports movies in Asian cinema. 1. “Thunderbolt” (1995)
This uneven action drama, which explored the world of auto racing, was poorly received by the critics upon its cinematic release back in 1995. But “Thunderbolt” still managed to strike gold at the Hong Kong box office and even earned the prestigious Golden Horse award (Taiwan’s version of Oscar) for Best Action Choreography. At the time of its making, “Thunderbolt” was the most expensive movie ever made in Hong Kong cinema. The hefty budget was mostly due to the bad weather in Japan, which forced the film crew to move over to the Batu Tiga Circuit in Shah Alam to shoot for the car-racing finale. Likewise for a Jackie Chan movie, the action was mostly top notch with notable moments, including the nighttime car chase along the Hong Kong streets and the climactic car-racing finale at the racing circuit.
2. “Shaolin Soccer” (2001)
No Asian sports movie would ever be complete without a mention of “Shaolin Soccer”. This award-winning sports comedy, which cleverly combined Stephen Chow’s signature nonsensical comic style, inspirational sports dramedy, kungfu and over-the-top special effects, was a huge hit back in 2001. After all, who could have thought a sports comedy that mixes football and Shaolin kungfu was so much fun to watch? Nevertheless, “Shaolin Soccer” was ranked as one of the funniest Hong Kong movies ever made as well as one of Stephen Chow’s best comedies to date.
3. “Forever The Moment” (2008)
A box office hit in South Korea, “Forever The Moment” was a well-acted, yet inspirational sports drama that focuses on the fictionalised version of the nation’s women’s handball team which competed in the 2004 Summer Olympics. In fact, “Forever The Moment” also earned its reputation as the world’s first movie ever made about the handball sport. This is a great character-driven sports drama not to be missed as the climactic finale between the South Korean handball team against the Denmark opponents was particularly thrilling and suspenseful.
4. “Jump Ashin!” (2011)
Based on a true story about Ashin’s (Eddie Peng) complicated life and career as a young gymnast, “Jump Ashin!” was a soulful and intense, if flawed gymnastics drama benefitted from a career-defining performance by Taiwanese heartthrob Eddie Peng. With his sculpted and athletic body form, Peng was particularly convincing in his physically-demanding performance as the gymnast, Ashin. One of the best Taiwanese sports dramas ever made in the recent years, “Jump Ashin!” also received plenty of accolades including four nominations at the 2011 Golden Horse Film Festival.
5. “Unbeatable” (2013)
Prior to the release of “Unbeatable”, the contact sport of MMA (mixed martial arts) was already famously explored in the 2007 Donnie Yen-starrer “Flash Point”. However, writer-director Dante Lam took that particular subject one step further by crafting an intriguing character-driven drama set in the backdrop of MMA. Great performances all around, with Nick Cheung famously bulking up his medium-build physique into a knockout six-pack muscular figure for his stellar portrayal as a former two-time MMA champion. His memorable performance also earned him a much-deserved Best Actor award at the 33rd Hong Kong Film Awards in 2014. Not only that, this well-received MMA drama was Hong Kong’s top-grossing local production in 2013.