Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Balls Of Fury (2007)(Spoiler Review)
**This review contains spoilers**
Randy Daytona (Brett DelBuono) is preparing for the biggest match in his life. At the young age of twelve, Randy is praised and celebrated as the best table tennis player in the world, and he’s the favorite to win it all during the finals of the 1988 Summer Olympics.
Randy must overcome two insurmountable obstacles to take home the gold. First, Randy must defeat Karl Wolfschtagg (Thomas Lennon), a fierce competitor from the German Democratic Republic. On top of that, Randy’s father, Sgt. Pete Daytona (Robert Patrick) of the United States Marine Corps bet money on Randy’s big match with the hopes of paying off his gambling debt.
In the end, Randy cracks under the pressure, losing the big match, and the mafia abducts his father. Sgt. Daytona’s owes money to Feng (Christopher Walken), a feared crime boss and enthusiastic ping-pong fan, and Sgt. Daytona can’t rely on his exhausted line of credit, so Feng’s associates murder him.
Nineteen years later, Randy (Dan Fogler) is haunted by the traumatic loss and his father’s death, so he takes a job at a casino in Reno, Nevada. As a sideshow act, Randy performs ping-pong tricks to pay the bills, but after a botched stunt, Randy’s boss, Rick The Birdmaster (David Koechner) fires him.
But Randy receives a second shot at redemption, when Ernie Rodriguez (George Lopez), an FBI agent, tempts Randy with an irresistible offer. With Rodriguez‘s help as an undercover agent, Randy must enter Feng’s annual ping-pong tournament, an exclusive best of the best tournament to crown the top ping-player in the world.
Together, Rodriguez and Randy will infiltrate Feng’s criminal organization, but Randy needs to polish his rusty skills first. In Chinatown, Randy trains with Master Wong (James Hong), a blind man, praised as one of the best ping pong trainers in the world, and he’s Feng’s old mentor, and Master Wong’s niece, Maggie (Maggie Q). Randy passes a big test after a win over The Dragon (La Na Shi), so one of Feng’s mysterious associates (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) offers Randy an invitation to the tournament, and Randy accepts.
Randy, Rodriguez, and Master Wong take the trip to Feng’s secret facility for the tournament. At the facility, Randy is forced to compete against an old rival, non-nonsense experts, and the losers receive a fatal shot from Mahogany’s (Aisha Tyler), one of Feng’s top assistants, poisonous darts. Randy tries to avenge his father’s murder, but Feng throws a tricky curveball at Randy during the finals…………
Christopher Walken delivers the best performance in Balls Of Fury. Walken is hilarious as the delusional and eccentric crime lord, who’s obsessed with ping-pong. Fang is a kooky adversary, the look helps (i.e. Feng’s painted fingernails), and Walken really nailed this character.
Dan Fogler’s funny enough, when he’s not forcing his routine with over the top hysterics. Maggie Q is decent with a parody performance of the tough woman, who excels in a man’s world. James Hong’s entire shtick revolves around Wong being this inept and accident-prone blind man, and Hong is good for a few laughs every now and then. George Lopez? I don’t see the appeal in him, and his cringeworthy Scarface impersonations couldn’t pull any laughs out of me.
Terry Crews and Patton Oswalt have a pair of brief cameo roles here. Crews sticks to his jacked up muscle guy act as Freddy “Fingers” Wilson, and there’s a funny scene, where Randy wishes Freddy good luck before their match in Feng’s tournament. Freddy’s response? “Blow it out your ass, b****.” Oswalt is a popular ping-pong player nicknamed “The Hammer.” Basically, The Hammer is this loser geek with a beer belly, and he licks the tiny prize trophy after his match with Randy. Meh. Oswalt licking the trophy almost forced a smile out of me, but that’s it. Thomas Lennon’s screen time is short, but he’s a nice fit for the wired jerk with a big ego. Also, don’t get your hopes up for Robert Patrick. You’ll only see him at the beginning, and his character disappears after that.
Am I the only one, who noticed the Mortal Kombat connection with Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa? For those of you, who don’t know, Tagawa portrayed Shang Tsung in Mortal Kombat (1995). In the movie, Shang Tsung recruited Johnny Cage for the tournament. In Balls Of Fury, he recruited Randy for the ping-pong tournament. It’s kind of weird how Tagawa delivers invitations for an exclusive best of the best tournament in Mortal Kombat and Balls Of Fury, AND in both films, he’s working for the bad guys. It’s an eerie coincidence, if you stop and take the time to connect the dots.
Who’s the true ping-pong master? Well, Feng raises the stakes, when he orders Mahogany to kill Wolfschtagg during the final match. Wolfschtagg’s replacement? A kidnapped Maggie. Feng forces Maggie to compete against Randy in a match to the death, but Maggie refuses. The FBI invades Feng’s facility during a self-destruct sequence, and Feng is disgusted by Maggie’s refusal to compete against Randy, so Feng decides to challenge Randy in a ping-pong match to the death to determine Wong’s greatest pupil.
But there’s a catch to Feng’s match. Randy and Feng must wear Feng’s custom made electronic vests, and the loser is electrocuted to death at the end of the match. On a rickety bridge, a one-armed Randy (Rodriguez broke one of Randy’s arms, because Randy wanted an excuse to quit before the final match) defeats Feng with a backhand serve. Feng falls into the lake below with his vest intact, and he’s electrocuted to death. Randy celebrates in a departing boat with Maggie, and to end the movie, Wong reopens his ping-pong school to teach new students. Long story short, traditional ping-pong enthusiasts trashed Wong’s school, because teaching a “gringo” (Randy) is forbidden in Chinatown.
Did any of this surprise anyone? We all knew Randy would face off against Feng, and we all knew he would win with some miraculous Hail Mary comeback. Randy and Maggie falling in love and sharing a big kiss? Yep. That’s another moment you could see coming from a mile away. Is the finale for Balls Of Fury a horrific and unbearable train wreck? No, but it’s hard to ignore the mundane step by step through the motions predictability.
Balls Of Fury has its moments. Most of the laughs come from Walken as Feng, and Fogler is a tolerable leading man. I can’t think of any true gut busters in Balls Of Fury, but watching Randy face off against a small girl (The Dragon), who’s the most feared ping-pong player in Chinatown put a smile on my face. Plus, Mahogany’s recurring gag with the poisonous darts brought some snickers out of me, and the misfire during the Maggie/Randy match is just priceless.
Still, I can’t go with a positive score for Balls Of Fury. Yes, Balls Of Fury put a smile on my face a few times, but in the grand scheme of things, the laughs are too inconsistent. I didn’t have a problem with Mahogany’s poison dart killing sprees, but the barrage of lowbrow antics hit a too tiresome point for me at the forty-seven minute mark.
I said this before, but George Lopez was too much for me, because he’s unbearably annoying as Rodriguez. And the cheap laughs approach for constantly using the word “balls” didn’t work on me. Walken brings his A game in the leading role, and without him, Balls Of Fury could’ve been worse, because he‘s the anchor for Balls Of Fury. Without Walken, this one sinks to the bottom of the deep end, fast.
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