Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Balls of Fury

Ping Pong Ding Dong

Balls of Fury is a movie that takes the mickey out of martial arts movies, throwing in a few cheap laughs, and nothing more. Like bad movies with plenty of cheese that adopts martial arts like Mortal Kombat and DOA, Balls follows the usual formula of having a prodigy fall from grace, only to be thrust into a mission that involves prior intense training, and meeting with an adversary who in turn is skilled by the same martial arts teacher, so that the finale is a fight of values.

Often there's a secret weapon involved too, and there's no other direct reference I can think of except that this backtracks all the way to Bruce Lee's Enter the Dragon, which the other two movies probably had traces of too. There's a tournament organized for the best of the best to pit their skills in, and the gladiators come from all over the world (so that you can include some poor geographically based comedy, in this case). Like Shih Kien's character in Enter the Dragon, you have an enigmatic megalomaniac as the chief of the tournament, held in a mansion, and in no time, our hero (hey, just for another Bruce Lee related reference for the heck of it, Jason Scott Lee's in this picture as well, though only as a supporting cast member) will discover its dark secrets, and kick the living daylights out of everyone to escape.

Except that in Balls, it is a ping pong / table tennis tournament, and the master of tournament is Feng (Christopher Walken, and I have no idea what's he doing here too), with assistance provided by Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, who is relegated from a similar head honcho role in the Mortal Kombat movie. And leading the charge to break into the tournament, is one time table tennis child prodigy Randy Daytona (Dan Fogler), a disgraced player now a fat shadow of his past formidable self, persuaded into the competition by a Secret Agent FBI man Agent Ernie (George Lopez) for the purpose of some serious federal investigations.

The comedy here is a bit tired, and most of the best bits were already included in the trailer. You have the usual sexist jokes involving sexy female characters, like the conveniently named Maggie (Maggie Q, doing so little and wearing even less), tired fat jokes, and plenty more from the blind sifu Master Wong (James Hong), whom I thought had probably the best lines in the movie, nevermind that most of them consists of faux pas martial arts philosophy full of sexual inneundos, and plenty of politically incorrectness coupled with slapstick physical comedy. But what went into effective overdrive, were the increasing attempts of sleight-of-hand moments in misdirection, which were spot on and timed perfectly. Other attempts though fell flat, especially those trying to recreate the spirit of nonsensical moments by the Abrahams-Zuker comedies, such as the inclusion of the sex slaves.

However Balls turns out to be pretty bland overall, and the storyline already well summarized in the trailer. Don't expect too much, and you might enjoy a chuckle or two. Otherwise rent this instead.

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