FINISHING THE GAME
Director: Justin Lin
Screenwriters: Josh Diamond, Justin Lin
Executive Producers: Joan Huang, Jeff Gou
Producers: Julie Asato, Sal Gatdula, Justin Lin
Cast: McCaleb Burnett, Monique Gabriela Curnen, Roger Fan, Meredith Scott Lynn
USA, 2006, 88 min.
*Egos fly and collide as hard and high as the karate kicks in this scathingly smart swipe at racial stereotypes and movie-biz hypocrisy. Justin Lin returns to Sundance (Better Luck Tomorrow played at the 2002 Festival) with Finishing the Game, a wickedly conceived comedy spoof about the search for the "new Bruce Lee."
On July 20, 1973, Bruce Lee died suddenly at the age of 32, leaving behind an exciting 12 minutes of action footage intended for his own passion project, The Game of Death. Lee's unexpected demise came at the zenith of his popularity, and the public's intense hunger for another Bruce Lee movie spurs movie execs to try and complete the film by finding a replacement for its deceased star. Ambitious documentarians (funded by tobacco and oil companies) capture the search on film as they follow the prime candidates competing for the role: a volatile Vietnam vet, a starry-eyed doctor, a Caucasian-looking activist, a cursed TV actor, a traumatized refugee, and a Bruce Lee knockoff named Breeze Loo.
Lin pumps up the volume on '70s style and takes no prisoners as he makes massive fun of the dysfunctional process of filmmaking, fueled by greed, ignorance, and ambition. All the while he cleverly lands sucker punches of his own as he exposes the million-and-one faces of racism.
*Summary by Shari Frilot, SUNDANCE Film Programmer
Finishing the Game would be a great short film. Like so many mockumentaries, it feels so stretched out and long, most of the humor is leached out by the end. There were some great characters, such as Breeze Loo, the Bruce Lee knock-off diva, who was just fun to listen to. I also really liked the casting director, Eloise, played by Meredith Scott Lynn. I’m embarrassed to say that the only thing I remember her from is Night at the Roxbury. Her big humorous scene is a good example of what went wrong with this film. The scene is between her and the director of the Bruce Lee film, when they are choosing who to bring in for callbacks. She judges whether to call guys back based on if she’d like to have sex with them or not. There is a great sequence between the two as they argue about who they would have sex with. The problem is, the filmmakers know it is a great scene so they keep extending it way past the point of funny. It just becomes repetitive and showy.
The film is light as a feather, so it is hard to be too judgmental. It was strange to see the film get a bit serious near the end, suddenly all this family back-story started getting thrown in, creating touching character history when none was required. Strangely though, these few serious bits were orchestrated to madcap, goofy music, so it was hard to understand what the director was trying to say. There were some good cameos, like George Takei as the narrator and Hammer (no longer M.C.) in a bit role. The credits were also not funny at all. Every comedy these days does the Animal House flash-forward credit sequence that tells where everyone ended up later in life. It is a tricky thing to get rightly humorous these days and this film missed it.I gained a lot more respect for Finishing the Game when the whole cast and director got up for the Q & A afterwards. The director, Justin Lin, had previously done a couple independent dramas and a few Hollywood films. He sounded immensely happy to be back making a low-budget independent film. The entire team seemed to have a blast working together and it is infectious to see a cast so satisfied after filming on an independent film. Especially interesting was how Hammer really went out of his way finance Justin Lin’s past Sundance feature, Better Luck Tomorrow. Lin was very thankful to Hammer and decided to give him a small part in this film. Ultimately, this film is light as air with no other goal than to make you laugh. Unfortunately, it is just too long to succeed in hitting the audience’s funny bone with any consistency.