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BALLS OF FURY – Randy Edelman

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

A somewhat peculiar movie which combines, of all things, kung-fu with ping-pong, Balls of Fury was a vehicle for up-and-coming comedy actor Dan Fogler. Fogler plays down-and-out former professional ping-pong champion Randy Daytona, whose life is changed when FBI Agent Ernie Rodriguez (George Lopez) recruits him for a secret mission: to travel to the far east and compete in a legendary “extreme ping pong” tournament organized by the nefarious Feng (Christopher Walken) – who is on the FBI’s most wanted list, and also happens to be the man who murdered Fogler’s father.

Director Robert Ben Garant turned to Randy Edelman to write the film’s score, ending a comparatively lean 4-yar period for the composer. The music, unsurprisingly, is reminiscent of some of the ‘oriental’ scores he wrote in the 1990s, notably Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story and The Quest, and it clearly adheres to the familiar Edelmanisms than have typified his work throughout his career: the unusual synth/string hybrid which more often than not leads the thematic performances, the electronic percussion, the simplistic chord progressions, and the generally upbeat and heroic nature the music maintains throughout.

The main theme, first heard in “History in a Paddle” sounds like it should come from a better film, but it is certainly a memorable melody, even if it does sound like it could be a rejected theme from Dragonheart. Once in a while Edelman writes something really lovely, like the superb duet between an erhu and a pipa in “A Harsh Ballerina”, the pompous march in “Tiny Balls Go Olympic”, or the gorgeous, wistful but sadly brief “Reflecting in a Glass Pool”. But his action music, as heard in the likes of “Training Shakedown”, “Homecourt Advantage” and “Storming the Garrison”, tends to be simple and ineffective, relying mainly on clichéd ‘Chinese’ chord progressions and too much synth percussion, while his theme for Walken’s character is ludicrously overblown to the point where it stops being intentionally funny and actually becomes ridiculous.

Occasionally, it even sounds like something Hans Zimmer might write on an off-day – “Journey to the Competition” for example. It still bothers me when a composer uses synths to sound like an orchestra when it would be just as easy to hire live players to do the same thing. As much as I’m pleased to see Randy Edelman back working, and as much as I love his classic scores like Dragonheart and Gettysburg, I’m starting to feel that his highly personal musical style is sounding a little tired.

Rating: **½

Track Listing:

  • History in a Paddle (3:18)
  • Shock From an Eastern Bloc (2:04)
  • A Harsh Ballerina (2:10)
  • Tiny Balls Go Olympic (1:31)
  • Training Shakedown (2:12)
  • Open Invitation (1:14)
  • Journey to the Competition (1:46)
  • Reflecting in a Glass Pool (0:36)
  • Sweet Victory (2:05)
  • Statesman Feng Makes the Intros (3:46)
  • Falling Hard and Going Soft (0:56)
  • On the Bridge (3:20)
  • Cracking the Ice (0:59)
  • Derailed (1:37)
  • Homecourt Advantage (2:27)
  • Taking All Comers (2:18)
  • Blood Ties (0:27)
  • Storming the Garrison (1:55)
  • An Old Wise Tale (0:57)
  • Facing the Dragoness (1:55)
  • Pong the Swords (2:39)
  • Spoons and Bugs (1:42)
  • Little Girls Don’t Cry (2:08)

Running Time: 44 minutes 02 seconds

Varèse Sarabande VSD-6838 (2007)

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