Finishing the Game (Director: Justin Lin, 2007): Bruce Lee died in 1973 during the filming of his “dream project,” a film to be called “The Game of Death.” Five years later, the producers released a film under that title that contained the 12 minutes that Lee had completed. To pad the rest, they included scenes from some other Bruce Lee films, as well as footage shot with stunt doubles, and even a still photo! Needless to say, this cynical cash-in was far from the film Lee had wanted to make. Justin Lin’s film is a hilarious mockumentary that attempts to go behind the scenes as the filmmakers try to audition “the next Bruce Lee.” While based on a true story, the film is completely fictional, and therefore takes many liberties for the sake of getting a laugh. And there are lots of laughs in the film. It’s a supremely silly send-up of chop-socky flicks, studio politics and 70s culture. Some of the hopefuls include a South Asian doctor named Raja Moore, a vain Lee impersonator named Breeze Loo, and a completely white guy who claims to be half-Chinese. The film revels in the worst sort of stereotypes, not only of Asian but of black culture, with MC Hammer starring as an agent who dresses like a pimp. The art direction is gloriously ugly and the soundtrack full of pornofunk. All of it adds up to a thoroughly enjoyable 90 minutes. Somehow, though, I felt a little bit disappointed.
I think what bothered me is that the basis of the story was a real injustice, with Lee’s legacy subjected to the worst sort of exploitation. Though the film is billed as a satire, I found the comedy just a bit too broad for it to function that way for me. The obvious lesson is that despite the filmmakers’ belief that Lee could be replaced by any other Asian, that it just wasn’t true. For Lin to have made that point more effectively, he would have had to include at least a bit of footage of the real Lee. His absence left the film a bit hollow, I think, despite what I am sure were the best of intentions.