Done in the style of a 1970s mockumentary, “Finishing the Game” is based on the premise that, when Bruce Lee died in 1973 at the age of 32, he left behind twelve minutes of footage for a movie entitled “The Game of Death.” Determined to bring Lee’s final dream to fruition, a group of dedicated filmmakers set out to find a replacement for the star in the hopes of finishing the project. “Finishing the Game” is a fictionalized account of that search (the actual movie was released in 1978).
Unfortunately, beyond its spot-on ’70s fashions and hairstyles, oh-so-groovy soundtrack and overall air of genial good-naturedness, “Finishing the Game” offers little of quality for anyone craving a good behind-the-scenes movie parody. Lacking both polish and finesse, the movie represents a major comedown for director Justin Lee after his stunning triumph with “Better Luck Tomorrow” a few years back. The half-hearted Josh Diamond screenplay scarcely makes an effort at being funny, and the concept itself is simply too thin to be successfully stretched out over even a relatively meager 84-minute-long running time. Barely flash-in-the-pan cameo appearances by the likes of James Franco, MC Hammer and Ron Jeremy do little to support an otherwise likable cast. And there isn’t even any decent martial arts action to make the movie much fun for fans of the genre being satirized.
The jokes are tongue-in-cheek, but the problem with them is that they are simply not funny. The whole movie is filmed in a pseudo-documentary style that has become a most overused technique in the last 10 years of independent movies. The situations and plot lines are sometimes cute, but mostly predictable and definitely not intelligent enough. The story actually looks like a long episode of “Office” (the US version), and you have a twitch to start channel surfing instead. I’m not sure how many Bruce Lee fans are still out there, but this film has very little to do with his work and just takes the premise and runs with it – unfortunately the end result is bland and devoid of any creative spark.
I have no idea how this movie got made. I’m even more amazed that its gotten a theatrical release, and flabbergasted that IFC has picked it up. Frankly its the worst film I’ve seen from their releasing arm. While Time Out New York said that there are no laughs in the film I do have to say there are some, maybe five minutes of screen time, worth of jokes, including the Ron Jeremy stuff. Other than that this is just a an embarrassingly bad (and not really fun) movie that takes on a road accident quality that hypnotizes you for a few seconds before you speed off to something else since the carnage is too great. Easily one of the worst films of the year.