Skip to content

Plot: Hong Kong babes must partake in clandestine martial arts tournament.

Kick Ass Girls (released domestically as 爆3俏嬌娃, or roughly translated, Explosive 3) is a Mainland China Bloodsport (1988) or Lionheart (1990) derivate aimed specifically at young adult girls, or so it seems at least. There’s physical comedy, romance, and enough inter-personal drama to fill a daytime soap opera. The girls get to giggle, wear lots of pastel-colored fashion and don expensive make-up while living it up big. It comes bursting with girl power and acts as a feminist manifesto of sorts. Even though it was directed by a woman, there are more than enough shots of the Kick Ass Girls in sexy get-ups for the guys to take notice. As for ourselves, we mainly checked it out because it stars Chrissie Chau Sau-Na, who’ve really taken a shine to in recent years. What Angel Warriors (2013) was to action-adventure, Kick Ass Girls is to the martial arts/streetfighting movie.

You have to admire Chrissie Chau Sau-Na. Chrissie started acting in 2006 and the by time Kick Ass Girls rolled around in 2013 her career was moving upward. She had a minor box office hit with the sports comedy Beach Spike (2011) two years before and now she and her friends were teaming up once again for something similar. Kick Ass Girls signaled her exit from ghost horror and fantasy wuxia and back into the romance and dramas wherein she made a name for herself. As a model-turned-actress Chrissie might not be as inherently gifted as, say, Ni Ni or as stupendously curvy as Mavis Pan Shuangshuang, Pan Chun Chun, or Miki Zhang Yi-Gui – but she has proven to be a versatile actress that can easily carry a production on her own. Of all the aspiring actresses in Mainland China her workhorse mentality has made her a respectable force domestically, and she could very well cross over into the English-speaking world the way Fan Bingbing, Yu Nan, and Ni Ni did if she ever mastered more than just her native Mandarin and Cantonese. 2013 was a busy year for sweet Chrissie that saw her appearing in a whopping 11 (!!) movies, among them Cold Pupil (2013), Lift to Hell (2013), and The Extreme Fox (2013). Chau won a Hong Kong Film Award in 2017 and among her more prestigious recent projects is Master Z: Ip Man Legacy (2018) from director Yuen Wo-Ping. Not bad at all for the girl who Hong Kong enfant terrible Raymond Wong once described as just another airheaded “bimbo”.

In Hong Kong entrepreneur Boo (Chrissie Chau Sau-Na) is having a hard time keeping her Kick Ass Girl gym profitable. Her friends and business partners TT (Hidy Yu Xiao-Tong) and Miu (DaDa Lo Chung-Chi) are more of a hindrance than a help. Their manager (Lawrence Chou Chun-Wai) does the best he can under the circumstances, but he isn’t able to turn the tide. When Boo’s brother Dice (Chui Tien-You) is scammed out of her hard-earned money by his crook of a partner, and the landlord (Courtney Wu) comes calling for rent; it looks as if the curtain is about to fall over Kick Ass Girl. One night the gym is overrun by black suited corporate goons, and the three girls defend what is rightfully theirs. Duly impressed by their showing Boo, TT, and Miu are hired as security detail by, and for, businesswoman Zhuge (Chris Tung Bing-Yuk). When she informs them that their first assignment will be a trip to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia as part of her entourage the Kick Ass Girls board the next plane to what they consider to be an easy paycheck, but mostly a lavish “paid vacation”. Once settled in their Kuala Lumpur hotel the girls live it up in their suite and go clubbing. Upon returning their driver takes them not to their hotel, but to a clandestine full-contact martial arts tournament organized by the Red Dragon cartel. There they’ll be forced to fight to the death. They will not only have to face reigning champion Emily (Lam Pui-Kei), but also the forces of crime lord Ghost Lion (Bryan To Hang-Lam) and his ring of human traffickers. Thanks to a reporter (Karson Lok Jan-Wai) the Kick Ass Girls make headlines boosting Boo’s struggling gym to become profitable.

Sounds all strangely and vaguely familiar, doesn't it? That’s because Kick Ass Girls is, give or take a few scenes that are changed around and some condensed plot contrivances here and there, more or less a contemporary young adult update of the Teresa Woo San Girls with Guns classic Angels 2 (1987). Not only that, director John McTiernan, or writers Jim and John Thomas, must have been familiar with it too because the entire jungle raid that opens Predator (1987) re-enacts the best moments of the jungle raid finale in one of Hollywood’s most fondly remembered action sequences. A running joke or gag is that TT and Miu, two self-described “HK flat-chests”, are jealous of Boo’s rather wealthy bosom, and it’s all the funnier that it comes to save them in the end. It’s also pretty funny that a gym called Kick Ass Girl has a predominantly male patronage, and only after their Malay adventure do more girls start pouring in. Okay, there’s a Kick Ass Boy sign that can be seen for only a couple of seconds in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it early scene in the very beginning. The action direction and fight choreography from Che Kim-Fai is decent enough, but it’s never particularly riveting. As such it’s no match for the high-flying choreography from Stanley Tong Gwai-Lai in Angels 2 (1987).

The biggest name of the cast is the always enjoyable Chrissie Chau Sau-Na. Kick Ass Girls wasn’t Chrissie’s first sports movie and neither was it the first time she co-starred with both DaDa Lo Chung-Chi and Hidy Yu Xiao-Tong. The same thing happened very much earlier with the volleyball comedy Beach Spike (2011). While it’s true that Chau is never going to conquer the English-speaking world the way Fan Bingbing, Yu Nan, or Ni Ni have, she has proven that she’s not afraid of physical acting. In Kick Ass Girls she’s the most talented of the three leads, and it’s quite obvious why Vincci Cheuk Wan-Chi (who has a much smaller supporting role) chose it as a vehicle exactly with her in mind. DaDa Lo Chung-Chi and Hidy Yu Xiao-Tong are both good enough, but Chau doesn’t have the chemistry she had with Connie Man Hoi-Ling, and Joyce Cheng Yan-Yi in the Jing Wong production iGirl (2016). We've come to like Chrissie a lot since we first laid eyes on her in the lamentable Lift to Hell (2013) and unlike Pan Chun Chun, Miki Zhang Yi-Gui, and Zhu Ke Er she can actually act when given the right material. Just like in The Extreme Fox (2013) later the same year Chrissie is a wonder to behold when she’s given a screenplay that plays up to her strengths. Cold Pupil (2013) might not have been a lot but at least it knew what to do with her. It almost goes without saying but Kick Ass Girls, for all intents and purposes, is Chrissie’s movie – and she owns it.

Compared to Beach Spike (2011) this one is equally cheery and is a lot darker in tone than you’d expect from a young adult drama. It starts off majestic enough with Chrissie bouncing around in the ring to the tones of Ludwig Van Beethoven's 5th Symphony in C Minor but when she does the same to ‘Act 2 - Squilla il bronzo del dio… Guerra, guerra’ (‘Act 2 – The bronze of God rings… War, war’) from Vincenzo Bellini’s famous 1831 opera Norma her situation is quite different and much more desperate. Judging by the amount of breast – and cleavage shots you’d swear Kick Ass Girls was directed by a man, but nothing could be further from the truth. Vincci Cheuk Wan-Chi likes the female form just as much as the average red-blooded male, but she never makes it a point. Chrissie Chau Sau-Na is versatile enough to handle the drama as well as the kickboxing – and she’s at her best when she can act physically. Kick Ass Girls isn’t going to appeal to anybody who doesn’t already like these actresses or has a passing familiarity with Angels 2 (1987) which apparently served as a template. That minor qualm aside Kick Ass Girls is better than most Mainland China webmovies usually are.

Plot: beach babes defend their favorite resort from greedy developers.

Before Kick Ass Girls (2013) there was Beach Spike, or a Mainland China sports movie that is part Sunset Cove (1978) (without the rampant nudity), part Shaolin Soccer (2001) or Blue Crush (2002), and all fun. Instead of surfing or soccer Beach Spike (released domestically as 熱浪球愛戰, or Heatwave Love, which makes about as much sense as the title it ended up being internationally released under) is about beach volley, or just a preamble to put a bunch of cute Chinese models in tiny bikinis and have ‘em bounce around in the sand. It was the first time Chrissie Chau Sau-Na, DaDa Lo Chung-Chi, and Hidy Yu Xiao-Tong co-starred together, and they would reunite for the amiable kickboxing romp Kick Ass Girls (2013). There’s probably worse ways of spending an hour and a half than in the company of giggly, hard-bodied Chinese girls in tiny candy-colored bikinis. In the years since Tony Tang Tung-Ming hasn’t exactly been prolific as either a director, screenwriter, or special effects artisan, but that doesn’t make Beach Spike any less entertaining. Beach Spike in all likelihood was one of Chrissie Chau’s earliest hits as it was fourth highest-grossing titles at the Hong Kong box office in its opening week. Not bad at all for what’s essential a rom-com/sports movie hybrid.

If Beach Spike was indicative of anything it was that Chrissie Chau Sau-Na was destined for bigger and better things than the rank ghost horror and romantic comedies she had been making a living with by that point. Chau rose to fame as a lang mo model with her 2009 and 2010 photobooks. Chrissie was the subject of a legendary Slim Beauty boutique commercial in 2009, directed by Tony Tang Tung-Ming, and that the two would end up working together again was all but inevitable. Chau won several Yahoo Asia Buzz Awards including "Yahoo! Entertainment Spotlight Person" in 2009, four for "Most Searched Photos on Yahoo!" in 2009–2012, and "Most Popular Actress Award". Cutting a dashing 32D figure the Chinese once-and-future queen of cleavage would become spokesmodel for luxury lingerie brand Lamiu, launched her own multi-million ShowNa Collection (秀娜系列) bra line in 2012, and heads up her own business empire with LAANAA. Not that bad for a young Sino girl without any formal model training.

On the acting front miss Chau appeared in a seemingly endless - and frequently interchangable - barrage of ghost horrors, action, and fantasy wuxia webmovie features including, but not limited to, Cold Pupil (2013), Lift to Hell (2013), Kick Ass Girls (2013), The Extreme Fox (2013), and the Jing Wong comedy iGirl (2016). After a decade in the dregs of Mainland China cinema Chau won the Hong Kong Film Award for Best Actress for 29+1 (2017) and a year later would legitimize herself as an A-lister on Yuen Wo-Ping’s Master Z: Ip Man Legacy (2018). Not bad at all for the girl that became an internet phenomenom in 2009, and was publicly ridiculed and called a “bimbo” by veteran actor Raymond Wong. For Beach Spike Chrissie received the “Award of Merit: Leading Actress" from The Accolade Competition. Chau has worked in Hong Kong, China, Taiwan and Malaysia, and but it’s unlikely that she’ll ever breakthrough internationally the way Ni Ni, Yu Nan, Fan Bingbing, or Jade Xu have done as sweet Chrissie speaks little English, or that’s the impression she’s giving off at least.

In Hong Kong there lies a seaside resort called Paradise Cove and working in the beach restaurant are the sisters Sharon (Chrissy Chau Sau-Na) and Bee (Theresa Fu Wing). They live with their uncle and auntie Tao (Lo Meng and Sharon Yeung Pan-Pan) who have instructed them in the ways of martial arts and have them busting tables. The sisters love volleyball and are adored by everyone for their bright smiles and high spirits. One day Sharon nearly drowns while swimming and is rescued by Tim (Law Chung-Him), one of the waiters in uncle Tao’s restaurant and the eldest scion of the wealthy and well-connected Bu dynasty. Sharon and Tim spent a lot of time in each other’s company and the two fall madly in love. Tim’s sisters Natasha (Phoenix Valen) and Natalie (Jessica Cambensy, as Jessica C) consider Sharon and Bee bad news and challenge them to a volleyball match. Sharon and Bee suffer a humiliating defeat and in the aftermath Mrs. Bu (Candice Yu On-On) issues an eviction note. The resort will be sold off to developers and turned into a luxurious playground for the rich and famous. The only way to keep Paradise Cove is to win the Hong Kong Beach Volleyball Championship. Sharon and Bee agree to a rigorous training regimen from uncle Tao, but do the girls have what it takes to save their beloved resort from being sold?

If DOA: Dead or Alive (2006) was a pretty composite adaptation of the Dead Or Alive series then Beach Spike is that Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball adaptation the world never got. As a romantic comedy (what this really is before becoming a fairly standard, and thus pedestrian, underdog sports movie) it has the same trappings that made Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball a popular sub franchise. That is to say, there’s plenty of opportunity to get an eyeful of the girls bouncing around in tiny bikinis, to have them go on dates, splash in the sea, and generally be giggly and fun-loving. The other reason to stick around, besides Chrissie Chau Sau-Na, is much in-demand model Jessica Cambensy (who comes from an American father and Chinese-Filipino mother) who has worked in Hong Kong, Singapore, China and Japan as a brand hostess for Cliniqué, L'Oreal, Max Factor and appeared in Marie Claire and CosmoGirl. As always with international versions a few character names change. Depending on the print Chau is either called Sharon or simply Chrissie, and Bee becomes Kim. Likewise, Jessica C and Phoenix Valen become Natalie and Natasha, respectively with their last name Brewster instead of Bu. Law Chung-Him’s Tim, for obvious reasons, remains intact.

The reason to see Beach Spike isn’t so much the sports element which is utilitarian at best, but to gawk at the assembled bronzed hard bodies of Chau, Wing, Jessica C, and Phoenix Valen as well as DaDa Lo Chung-Chi, and Hidy Yu Xiao-Tong. For the women there’s the bared chest of Alex Lam Chi-Sin that gets plenty of screen time too. Kudos to Chrissie Chau, Alex Lam Chi-Sin, and DaDa Lo Chung-Chi for pulling double duty while this was being filmed as they were engaged in filming the Jing Wong produced Marriage with a Liar (2010) during the night with Patrick Kong Pak-Leung. Also to be seen is sometime Hong Kong martial arts – and action star Sharon Yeung Pan-Pan and wuxia regular Candice Yu On-On. Pan-Pan worked frequently with Godfrey Ho Chi-Keung and shared the screen with wuxia pillars as Lo Lieh, Ti Lung, and Casanova Wong as well as 80s HK Girls with Guns action stars Moon Lee, Oshima Yukari, Sibelle Hu Hui-Chung, and Kara Hui Ying-Hung. On-On on the other hand got her start with Goldig Films but was quickly and frequently employed by Shaw Brothers. Sharon Yeung Pan-Pan was responsible for the action choreography and her routines are fluent, graceful, and stylish but never excessive or overly flashy. As expected Beach Spike never engages in Hong Kong styled antics, and whether that is to its advantage or to its detriment is entirely up to one’s personal preferences for these things.

For those of whom DOA: Dead or Alive (2006) was lacking on the beach volleyball front Beach Spike is probably a good alternative. That she ended up working with master philistine Jing Wong is not all that surprising considering the amount of comedies Chau has done over the years. In recent years Chau has worked very hard to legitimize herself after spending what seems like a small eternity in the Mainland China webmovie circuit. She may not be as versatile as, say, Ni Ni or willing to lower herself to Category III the way Daniella Wang Li Danni has, and that’s admirable to say the least. It sort of makes you wish Chrissie Chau would end up working with Tsui Hark, or somebody of similar repute. If anything Beach Spike was a start, and ample evidence that Chrissie is a pretty good comedic actress if the material suits her. In all other cases Beach Spike is an enjoyable Mainland China take on Shaolin Soccer (2001) – and knowing how annoying and kinetic Sino comedy can get, this could have been far, far worse.