The Batter’s Eye: Weeds on Fire

Based loosely on the true story of Hong Kong’s Shatin Martins, Weeds on Fire (2016, directed by Steve Chan Chi-fat) is a lot of style and little substance.

Teenagers and best friends Lung (Lam Yiu-sing) and Wai (Tony Wu) are recruited to play baseball for their school’s new team. The school has a bad reputation and most of the students come from underprivileged backgrounds, but principal-turned-coach, Lu (Liu Kai-chi) believes baseball will give them what they need to succeed in life.

Yeah, it’s a familiar story, even more so as Lung and Wai’s friendship turns into a rivalry, but it’s baseball. The usual beats of this story are comforting in a lot of ways, even as things turn more and more dramatic (there’s an unplanned pregnancy! Wai turns to a life of crime!). We watch baseball movies to see the underdogs become champions and this delivers on that.

I did want a bit more from it, though. The actors all do well with the material that’s given to them but they’re relatively thinly-drawn (mostly, it seems like they just needed to show up and look good). There are some inventive shots, like from the perspective of the ball when Lung is pitching, and the bright, saturated colors give the movie a certain amount of charm.

There is a lot of baseball in this movie, and watching the Martins develop is a lot of fun. It’s certainly exaggerated like much of this movie, but their early loss to a team of little kids is funny and their victory over their rivals, the Buffaloes, does feel like a triumph. That’s more just filling in the emotions we’re supposed to feel, though, than anything the movie is actually doing on its own.

I’ve spent a worse 95 minutes and it’s effective as a baseball movie. Still, the real story of the Shatin Martins seems like it was more interesting than how it was presented here (the players were younger, to begin with) and I was left feeling like I would’ve rather there had been a documentary about this story instead of what we got.