Review: WEEDS ON FIRE 點五步 (2016) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Review: WEEDS ON FIRE 點五步 (2016)

Review: WEEDS ON FIRE 點五步 (2016)

Based on the true story of the Hong Kong's first Chinese youth baseball team known as the Shatin Martins, WEEDS ON FIRE revolves mainly around two best friends and public housing neighbours Tse Chi-Lung (Lam Yiu-Sing) and Fan Chun-Wai (Tony Wu Tsz-Tung). They are also part of the Shatin Martins team alongside the rest of the underachievers assembled by their principal cum coach Lo Kwong-Fai (Liu Kai-Chi). At the beginning, the Shatin Martins are treated like a laughing stock after being humiliated by a junior team during their first game. However, Lo constantly reminds them about the value of teamwork and discipline being the key of keeping them together and make them stronger at each participating game.

REVIEW: In the past, Hong Kong cinema has embraced various sports genre ranging from auto racing (1995's THUNDERBOLT) to football (2001's SHAOLIN SOCCER) as well as mixed martial arts (2013's UNBEATABLE) and badminton (2015's FULL STRIKE) with varying degree of successes. Then, there is the baseball. This familiar sport may have been a common theme in Hollywood but it's rare to see one in the Hong Kong cinema, which makes it all the more refreshing for Stevefat's (a.k.a. Chan Chi-Fat) WEEDS ON FIRE.

Funded entirely by the Hong Kong government's First Feature Film Initiative with a tight budget of just HK$2 million, this low-budget indie production already screened at this year's Hong Kong Film Festival (HKIFF) to rousing critical success. Although Hong Kong baseball movie is a rarity, it isn't much difference than the Hollywood counterparts since every sports cliché are all here in the checklist. From the obligatory training montages to inspiring speeches and slow-motion baseball action moments, WEEDS ON FIRE is pretty much a familiar sports movie you have seen countless times before.

But what makes this otherwise cliché-ridden sports movie a refreshing piece of work is the added local touch that brings back a nostalgic vibe of the Hong Kong's golden age in the 1980s. Despite this is Stevefat's feature-length directorial debut, he does a great job depicting the right feel and look of the particular era with the help of Day Tai's 80s-inspired score. Best of all, WEEDS ON FIRE is more than just your typical sports movie. As for the genre itself, Stevefat and cinematographer O Sing-Pui successfully capture the intensity of the baseball game with a subtle mix of dramatic and slow-motion camera placements. At one point, Stevefat even manages to show a unique angle shot creatively from a baseball's point-of-view as the camera follows the ball along with the pitcher's arm movement.

Review: WEEDS ON FIRE 點五步 (2016)

The movie also succeeds as a thoughtful coming-of-age story about growing up within the confines of the public housing development in Shatin. Stevefat, who co-wrote the screenplay alongside fellow debutant Wong Chi-Yeung, addressed other relatable thematic elements as well, which include everything from teen angst to family issues and teen pregnancy surrounding the ups-and-downs of Lung and Wai's personal matters. The story even manages to slip in a reflecting view of political and social dilemmas between the simpler time of the 1980s Hong Kong and the mass protest of the Umbrella Movement in 2014, which can be seen during the beginning and the end of the movie.

Lam Yiu-Sing and Tony Wu Tsz-Tung are both excellent as two best friends with contrasting attitudes. The rest of the teenaged cast, ranging mostly from debutants to non-professional actors, are competent enough with their respective roles. Jan Lamb, in the meantime, is spot-on as the movie's narrator. Finally, there is the screen veteran Liu Kai-Chi, who delivers a solid supporting turn as a strict and never-say-die principal cum coach.

Even with all the presence of sports-movie clichés, WEEDS ON FIRE is a better-than-average drama that plays well as a crowd-pleasing genre movie and a subtle coming-of-age drama with political undertones

* This review is written courtesy from GSC press screening *

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