By Fred Topel | Image property of respective holders.
Finishing the Game
Finishing the Game is a fantastic premise. It is a story about the studio building a movie around the 12 minutes of Game of Death footage that Bruce Lee left behind. The martial arts and satire fans in me were completely open to the idea.
Movie Review: Finishing the Game
They had me for about 20 minutes. Opening with '70s sponsorship notes was kitchy and the introductions of all the kooky characters was cute. Breeze Loo was funny with his fake movies. Everyone was so innocent and sincere, it looked like they could out-improv the Christopher Guest troop.
Then you start to realize that this whole film is going to be nothing but auditions. This is not only repetitive, but it's missing the actual joke of the endeavor, which is the actual filming of Game of Death with a double. The drawn out process of watching people act badly and perform bad martial arts is not clever.
Many interludes are painful. The casting director's tirade on "f*ckability" is old. They switch genders but it's still the same old crap. Much of it is contrived, like watching someone give an interview while getting massaged makes it funny. If a vibrating voice is all you've got, don’t make this movie. Many scenes have no punchline at all.
Then you get the sense that Justin Lin has never even seen Game of Death. They audition dialogue and screen test scenes bear no resemblance to what Game of Death ended up being. I've got to imagine there were some actual lines and scenes from Game of Death that would have been funny in this context. Why make up some jungle scene when anyone interested in this knows that Game of Death does not take place in the jungle.
Then you wonder: why did they create all these fake dramas with these clichéd characters when there was real drama surrounding the production? Real life is funnier than anything you can make up.
It ceases to be outrageous quickly because we've bought into the idea that this is a take on the making of a movie without the star. We've bought that this exists in the '70s. The film never rewards us for trusting it.
There are moments when one character seems to confront agents about the very idea of perpetuating terrible Asian stereotypes. Perhaps the film will have a moving emotional heart. It never pays off.
It is completely inconsistent too. Some test scenes are badly dubbed but others are in perfect sync sound. So what's the aesthetic here?
Finishing the Game finally just cops out completely. It ends in a way that says none of this matters anyway because it never impacted Game of Death. So what was the point of the whole film? It's not funny on its own and then they just say, "Yeah, and then they went on to make Game of Death." At that point, I'll just outright say it, F you! You're going to offer me a comedy about the making of Game of Death and not even deliver? F you!