Bronzed beach guards of Baywatch are back and ready to raunch, with The Rock in for The Hoff

The jokes are dirtier, the white-knuckle stunts more intense and there’s more flesh on show than in 1990s TV series in this Seth Gordon-directed big-screen version starring Dwayne Johnson, in David Hasselhoff role, and Zac Efron

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 May, 2017, 2:46pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 May, 2017, 2:46pm

For a generation of fans, Baywatch was an escapist fantasy that invoked sun, surf and some famously silicone-enhanced stars jogging slo-mo in form-fitting red lycra across the beaches of California.

It drew in a weekly 1.1 billion viewers from 148 countries at its 1990s peak, offering sun without sunburn, golden sand without sandy sandwiches and David Hasselhoff without the hassle.

A new movie starring Dwayne Johnson hits Hong Kong cinemas next Thursday (with preview screenings starting this Thursday), promising a raunchier Baywatch that will succeed where many TV-to-big-screen conversions like The Dukes of Hazzard, CHiPs and Lost in Space have failed.

Johnson, who executive-produced, and director Seth Gordon (Horrible Bosses) insisted on aiming for an R-rating (equivalent to Hong Kong’s IIB rating) rather than the more family-friendly PG13 (equivalent to Hong Kong’s IIA rating, because they didn’t want to rein in the edgy humour, strong language and nudity.

The jokes are dirtier, the white-knuckle stunts are more intense and there’s more flesh on show, although – from the lingering shots of Zac Efron’s toned torso to a cringeworthy scene in a mortuary – much of it is male.

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The movie follows devoted, overzealous, lifeguard Mitch Buchannon – Johnson taking over from the role made famous on TV by Hasselhoff – as he butts heads with a brash new recruit (Efron) while investigating a drug smuggling ring.

Alexandra Daddario, 31, who plays rookie lifeguard Summer Quinn, remembers expecting that the shoot in Florida and Georgia would mostly involve going to “look at hot chicks and hot guys and hang out on the beach all day”.

“You don’t really realise that you’re going to be out there from sunrise to sunset, it’s going to be incredibly sunny, you’re going to be squinting into the sun,” she said.

“You can’t eat a hamburger, you have to eat light, you have to keep your stomach sucked in the whole time.”

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Already a global star, Priyanka Chopra makes her US debut as the villain of the piece, ruthless businesswoman Victoria Leeds – a part originally written for a man.

“I think the spirit of Baywatch is really the fact that you do something which is bigger than yourself,” said Chopra, 34.

“You’re saving people’s lives in an ocean which can consume you completely. And that’s the spirit of camaraderie, of teamwork, of actually working together, which is what Victoria hates. But I think that’s the spirit of Baywatch.”