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You Offend Me, You Offend My Family

Finishinggame2 After Bruce Lee died in 1973, there was a fury of films released starring actors with some variation of his name:  Bruce Le, Bruce Li, Bruce Lei...  Even though we realized the difference, my friends and I would still see them.  Usually they were a disappointment, especially since the films often included brief cuts of the real Bruce Lee in action in a naked attempt to make money off the late man's charisma and abilities. 

The weirdest had to be 1978's Game of Death, in which producers took 20 completed minutes from a film Bruce Lee was working on when he died, and wrote an entirely new story to fill in the other 65 minutes.  Most of it is horrible -- including a fistfight between Lee's double and then-50-something American actor Hugh O'Brian, in which the older man is somehow kicking the double's ass with Irish boxing moves. (O'Brian was known primarily for Westerns, so kung fu was not in his skill set.)

However, the sequence Lee completed is thrilling, and worth seeing (even if you have to fastforward through the rest).

Lee's character faces off with opponents of various fighting styles. In each case he must adapt his technique in order to overcome each person.  Lee choreographed these scenes to fit within his belief that movie fighting should look real, which was a new concept at the time, and every frame demonstrates that ideal.      

After each confrontation, Lee portrays his character as injured and increasingly fatigued (far from superhuman), yet he fights on through pure determination.  Lee's character finally faces 7-foot-tall hoops star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who was a student of martial arts in real life, and in the scene defeats him through a mix of ingenuity and physical prowess.

Cut to the present. 

Back in July, I was lucky enough to catch a screening of Justin Lin's new film, Finishing the Game, which comments on the post-Lee mania by portraying the process in which producers hired an actor to portray Lee's double for Game of Death.  (Hence, finishing the Game.)  The film opens on October 5th in select cities, and I highly recommend checking it out.

Instead of taking the ridiculous situation at face value, Lin ups it to another level and makes the real farce into a farcical farce.

Finishinggame1_2 In the story, dozens of actors compete through the audition process to score the plumb part of Lee's double, dressed famously in the yellow jumpsuit (quoted by Quentino Tarantino in Kill Bill), some of whom are wildly inappropriate. 

The actors are hilarious, including the normally gangsta Sung Kang cast against type as a happy-go-lucky young actor caught between the role and his supportive girlfriend.  A number of offbeat cameos includes MC Hammer (as a slick talent agent), Spiderman's James Franco, Dustin Nguyen (from 21 Jump Street), and Star Trek's George Takei in a voiceover. 

But actor Roger Fan steals the show as the egocentric Breeze Loo, a Bruce Lee wannabe who, as star of the preposterous kung fu flick Fists of Fuhrer, refuses to do his own stunts. ("There's a name for actors who actually do their own fighting.  They're called stuntmen.") Catch a bit of his performance below. 

Also, a cast-and-crew meet & greet will be held on Saturday, October 6th at 723 Washington Street, New York, NY. Tickets are $20, and available here.  (Tickets will NOT be sold at door and must be purchased in advance online.) First 50 attendees with movie ticket stubs will receive a "free gift bag," and all ticket stub holders will have a chance to win raffle prizes.

-- Tom Penketh

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