Film Review – Balls of Fury

Let me begin by saying that I have a very uncanny and unconventional sense of humor – even the smallest joke will have me in stitches. So when I saw the trailer for Balls of Fury whilst enjoying another daily trip to the cinema I thought this was going to be another Dodgeball-esque spoof, which would have me laughing myself into an early grave. Instead this film failed to excite the small child within.

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The creators Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon are well known for their works on Reno 911 Miami, a funny police comedy, shot in a style cleverly imitating a documentary. Balls of Fury on the other hand is a hopeless attempt to be classed as a slapstick comedy ไฮไลท์บอล.

The film opens with a sequence where we are introduced to 12 year old Randy Daytona – America’s Ping Pong Champion. He reaches the finals of the Olympic Games but realizes his father has made a bet with Triads for him to win and little Randy loses focus, embarrasses himself and has to forfeit. His father is then kidnapped and murdered by the Triads and since then Randy has never played ping pong competitively.

19 years later, Randy (Dan Fogler) becomes a showcase performer as a “Ping Pong Magician” to a half-dead crowd; unfortunately one of his tricks goes pear-shaped and he accidentally kills an audience member. He loses his job and just when he thought his luck could not get any worse an FBI agent, Rodriguez (George Lopez) visits him.

Surprisingly though, Rodriguez has a proposition for Randy to go undercover and help bring down the notorious Chinese mafia leader known as Feng (Christopher Walken), the man who killed his father, by participating in an annual underground Ping-Pong Tournament. He agrees to this proposition without much inner turmoil and then acquires the help of a blind Ping-Pong guru Master Wong (James Hong) and his niece Maggie (Maggie Q) for the task. (A flat and unconvincing ‘love’ story is later played out between the two.)

At this point, I felt a lot of empathy Randy, but scene by scene the film, jokes and plot wore thin and by the time the movie reached its climax, the only empathy I had left was for the person sitting next to me who had to share this traumatizing experience of recycled clichés and dry plotline with me.

Fogler’s performance did not impress me; in fact he was in my eyes just a recycled version of Jack Black – constantly using his paddle as a form of guitar and every now and again referring to Rock music when it had nothing to do with the either his character’s persona or the plot. Personally, Ron Jeremy should be proud that he has a look-alike. His performance is barely funny and completely unwatchable; really he should stick to underground Broadway shows.

The film portrays Agent Rodriguez as another clichéd poverty driven Latin-American, his character continuously quotes from De Palma’s (1983) ‘Scarface’, also adopting Tony Montana’s attributes of shooting uncontrollably, leading me to believe the Latin-American’s social status and representation is still problematic in Hollywood and further in North American and global culture.

In fact, the horrible concept of an American being the leader of a Chinese Mafia shows how powerful American white supremacy is over other cultures, but it’s a comedy so it wouldn’t be taken seriously, or will it? Whilst I applaud Walken’s desperate attempt to bring some humor to the role of Feng and the movie in general with his witty one-liners but let’s face it, what’s so funny about a transvestite geisha?

His role however not only brought up issues of American supremacy in the reasoning behind why a white American man was playing this character but also highlighted the lack of a Chinese actor to play it instead. It lead me to question why are ethnic minority groups so underrepresented (and clichéd) in Hollywood? this isn’t the first of it’s kind recently this year Angelina Jolie played the role of mixed race Mariane Pearl (Dutch-Jewish, Afro-Latino-Cuban and Chinese Cuban ancestry) in A Mighty Heart which sparked huge controversy. Is it a question of not having enough actors from these groups in Hollywood or just that they aren’t being given the same opportunities as the ‘bigger’ more popular and well known faces? It is something that really plays on my mind and is an issue I feel should be questioned and raised in order to force directors and institutions to reconsider.

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