Talking shuttlecock

GAME FACE: (Top) Actor Ekin Cheng in Full Strike.

Athletic excellence is at the core of new goofball badminton comedy Full Strike.

But, for its three Hong Kong stars - Josie Ho, 40, Ekin Cheng, 47, and Ronald Cheng, 43 - who "spent weeks" perfecting their grip and strokes for the movie shoot, whatever confidence they had crumbled in the face of real-life sporting professionals.

Full Strike, which is showing here, sees the trio play desperate down-and-outs battling to get into the final round of a TV badminton competition. It features cameos by former Chinese badminton world champions Bao Chunlai and Wang Lin.

Bao has won 14 men's international singles titles, including the 2009 Aviva Open Singapore, while Wang has four women's international singles titles to her name.

In a phone interview with M from Hong Kong last week, Ekin said that although Bao and Wang have retired from competitive badminton, they haven't lost their touch.

"The other actors and I trained quite a bit before filming, but once we sparred with these two ex-champions, we instantly looked like amateurs," he said in Mandarin.

"They were too good for us."

Ho, the daughter of Macau casino magnate Stanley Ho, echoed these sentiments.

"Of course we were nervous when we had to play with (Bao and Wang)," she said.

"I couldn't hit a single shuttlecock!"

With a laugh, she recalled: "We played mixed doubles and I was paired with Bao Chunlai. Ekin was paired with Wang Lin.

"Chunlai did most of the work, he told me to just stand in front of the net.

"I think Ekin didn't fare too badly, he managed to hit one shuttlecock."

Added Ekin: "Yes, but I totally depended on Wang Lin."

The three leads share a comfortable chemistry, evident from their endless ribbing throughout the interview.

When quizzed who is the best player among them, Ho joked: "I'll say it's Ronald. He has the best pose when we are holding our racquets."

Experience-wise, Ho, who is married to Hong Kong musician-actor Conroy Chan, has a slight advantage over her peers.

"I've been playing badminton since I was a kid. While I was studying in Ontario (Canada), I competed in women's doubles at the provincial level," she revealed.

"My school, Ridley College, came in second."

But Full Strike's athletic scenes took a toll on her.

"I injured my knee pretty badly and had to rest for one and a half months after the shoot," she said.


Ronald, a father of two, took a friendly dig at his co-star.

"Josie's leg was initially in pain, but after learning of our box-office takings, she felt much better," he deadpanned.

Full Strike, to the jubilation of the actors, has emerged a hit in Hong Kong. It reportedly made HKD$900,000 (S$154,000) in its opening weekend.

"I'm extremely happy at how well our movie has done," said Ekin, whose wife is Hong Kong television actress Yoyo Mung.

Like Ho and her husband, the couple have no children.

"There is a great dynamic among our cast and crew, which I think is what makes a movie successful. Plus all of us showed passion for the sport."

Ronald said: "Hong Kong cinema hasn't had such a funny comedy with a meaningful, inspiring storyline in a really long time.

"Full Strike will make you laugh, but it will also stir something in you."

This article was first published on May 20, 2015.
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