The day that Bruce Lee left us was truly a tragedy. The Game of Death was Lee’s pet project, the one where he could truly show off his skills for the world to see. He never finished it. Even though there was ninety minutes of footage, it was never completely restored to make a complete film. Instead, a mere eleven minutes and seven seconds was used in a 1978 movie called Game of Death. The plot was revised and every camera & stand-in trick was used in the book to finish the movie. The rest of the footage was either lost or found its way into the documentary, Bruce Lee: A Warrior’s Journey. One has to often wonder what the casting process behind casting a body double & stand-ins were like for somebody as unique as Bruce Lee. One also has to wonder how easy it would be to make fun of it.
On July 20th, 1973, Bruce Lee died suddenly at the age 32, leaving behind 12 minutes of footage intended for his dream project THE GAME OF DEATH. Director Ronney Kurtainbaum (played by Jake Sandvig) and casting director Eloise Gazdag (played by Meredith Scott Lynn) are on a mission to find the next Bruce Lee for the project or at least a reasonable facsimile. There are some strong candidates as well as many questionable ones for the film.
At top of the list, you have Breeze Loo (played by Roger Fan) who has played many Bruce Lee type roles sporting a blue jumpsuit. However, he doesn’t perform any of his own stunts. Then you have Cole Kim (played by Sung Kang) who is looking for his first role as a Hollywood star. His manager and girlfriend, Saraghina Rivas (played by Monique Curnen) is having a hard time balancing love and taking Cole’s career in the right direction.
But also in the list, you have a string of characters that don’t quite fit the Bruce Lee model. Tarrick Tyler (played by McCaleb Burnett) is trying to represent his Chinese heritage but the problem is that he’s white. Along the same lines, there is Raja (played by Mousa Kraish) who has played the stunt double of Breeze Loo. Except he has an afro and full facial hair. And he’s middle eastern. Then you can throw in an assortment of people from a 7-foot tall asian man to a guy who talks like he’s from Fantasy Island but yet might go on to have a Gene Hackman type career.
Finishing the Game is shot in mockumentary format and is straight-up funny. The film was shot in a short time period but went all-out in keeping the film very authentic to its 70’s feel. The strongest role came from Meredith Scott Lynn’s portrayal of Eloise and how she carefully manipulated the director into picking candidates for each successive round of tryouts. The other stand-out role came from Roger Fan and how effortlessly he portrayed Breeze Loo, an ego-centric Bruce Lee look a like. His charisma and charm echoed on every scene he was on right up until the end.
Of particular interest besides the film itself was the 70’s spots where they showed Fists of Fuhrer and Golden Gate Guns. Fists of Fuhrer was a Breeze Loo film and is used to open the movie. The five minute showcase is epic and perhaps the most awesome knock on martial art films of the time period. The second piece, Golden Gate Guns stars Dustin Nguyen as Troy Poon is equally good and lets us know why he doesn’t do laundry. There are many other effective acting jobs as well as some interesting cameos to round out the film.
The film is presented in 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen. It is hard to judge this film in terms of Video or Audio quality as the film was purposely shot in a 70’s format. This means lots of artifact and halo type shots to serve the documentary & older film feel. It does deliver on this idea quite well, but it is also hard to give anything above an average score.
The audio is provided in 2.0 English Dolby Digital. The film’s audio sounds very weathered but again it is doing it for a purpose. Dialog is thankfully clear and never choppy, the crackles typically come from the “commercials” like Fist of Fuhrer. The music in the film is well placed and it serves up like it should. Subtitles are also provided in English and Spanish.
- Commentary with Director Justin Lin, Co-Writer Josh Diamond, Composer Brian Tyler: A wonderful commentary. I think the best part of the commentary is at about the sixty five minute mark where they mention that dvd reviewers such as myself actually critique their commentary. We in fact are guilty of that notion, but don’t worry guys you were spot on in this one.
- On Set Mayhem 9:09: Behind the scenes in three different vignettes. We have Breeze Loo & Cole Kim, Tarrick Tyler & Troy Poon and finally the Cole Kim & Porno Scene. Good stuff, but the nudity is pixilated in the porno scene. Darn licensing rights.
- Deleted Scenes 17:13: Eight deleted scenes in all. Of particular note are the Take Out Charlie scenes & the lost Mexico footage about these two folks who had found a Bruce Lee impersonator in Mexico. However, they could never get over the border and they were taken to jail. No happy ending either.
- Satisfaction, A Music Video by Far East Movement 4:16: Far East Movement decided to make a 70’s style video for their song. The song is incredibly catchy. The video starts out pretty cool (with hot asian women to boot). But by the end, the girl puking out her guts just isn’t for me.
- Theatrical Trailer 2:26: The original trailer for this fine movie. Here is hoping that it finds a home in DVD.
THE GAME OF DEATH was ultimately finished without the participation of anyone in this documentary. Even Bruce Lee’s own vision was not represented in the final version of the film. For the purposes of this review, that’s probably for the best. If they had been represented, then we probably would have not gotten a lot less funny film. The film had many strong acting jobs typically not seen in a mockumentary where many times people involved in such a production will spend more time trying to be serious than funny. The film does drag at certain points but is very few and far in-between. The video and audio are what you would expect from a film that is trying to emulate the 70’s. The extras are very decent and you come away from this film finding that it is indeed a little gem. Special note, check out the cameos for Ron Jeremy and Mc Hammer. Ron Jeremy’s character is very predictable but strong. Mc Hammer however is wonderful and should honestly consider more roles now that he’s hung up his parachute pants. Recommended for those who don’t take things seriously and willing to allow a little humor into their life.
- DvdVerdict.com – “Finishing the Game is not a complete disaster, but it’s simply not original enough to entertain viewers for the entire 76 minutes.”
- DvdInMyPants.com – “For being (literally) a no-budget film shot in 19 days, I really have to hand it to director Justin Lin and his crew for managing to give this film a wonderfully authentic 70s feel to it”