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Where EAST meets the Northwest

FARCE OF FURY. Finishing the Game, Justin Lin’s comedy about Hollywood’s search for the next Bruce Lee during the filming of Game of Death, opens at Portland’s Hollywood Theatre on December 7. (Photo courtesy of the Independent Film Channel)

From The Asian Reporter, V17, #49 (December 4, 2007), page 11.

Finishing the Dragon for fun

Finishing the Game

Directed by Justin Lin

Starring Roger Fan, Sung Kang, Mousa Kraish, and Dustin Nguyen

Distributed by the Independent Film Channel

By Ronault L.S. Catalani

It was a different world when Chinese superfly Bruce Lee strangely and suddenly perished in Hong Kong after completing Enter the Dragon but before finishing Game of Death. It was 1973. Pant legs belled, shirt collars flared, hair was big back in those extravagant seventies.

By 1973 Bruce Lee had already left America for home, feeling betrayed by Hollywood, where he single-handedly created Asian-cool. Where, as the Green Hornet’s man-servant, he made martial arts hip, only to be summarily shoved aside for the lead in "Kung Fu," a prime time television show he conceived — for a white wannabe. For commercial advertisers and mainstream audiences not ready for a non-white hero. For David Carradine, for goodness sake.

Finishing the Game is Chinese-American director Justin Lin’s farcical shot at filling in the gap left in Game of Death by The Master’s untimely demise. It is also a bit of getting even for a hundred or so years of bad behavior, epitomized back then and mythologized today by the whole Bruce Lee/U.S. television industry misadventure.

Indeed, Mr. Lin tries to do an awful lot in less than an hour and a half of film time. Finishing the Game is a veritable motherload of Asian Americana, including: in-group jokes and sight gags, inter-ethnic group ribbing, house/field negro humor, the usual dose of minority male issues, and even a spoof or two on Bruce Lee’s unabashed and un-Oriental self-promo. "I was innately born with … true power and the ability to destroy with my very presence."

This film is encyclopedic. I’m desperate for a viewers guide.

Also fun are Mr. Lin’s period ambience — funky club and Blaxploitation film soundtracks — and his period anchors like hep-cat language and far-out threads and those right-on (hair)dos. Ron Jeremy, a huge 70s porn icon, now just another hairy fat guy, even gets a role.

And plot, yes there is one. In short: a wealthy producer hands his squeaky son Ronny the job of directing what remains of the unfinished Game of Death. The task is to cast for The Man. So the pencilneck and his two totally ethnically incompetent white girls screen a sea of Asian-types, among them an eager FOB Saigonese, a cuddly Korean, a furry Palestinian (Mousa Kraish from Steven Spielberg’s Munich), a Chuck Norris and a Bruce Lee look-alike, and the real Dustin Nguyen. Their choices and this story end as disastrously as Bruce Lee’s stretch in Hollywood and his time on earth.

Finishing the Game made its debut at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival and made opening night lineups at the 25th San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival, the 30th New York Asian American International Film Festival, even at Eugene’s DisOrient Film Festival earlier this year. To learn more about Finishing the Game, about director Justin Lin, and about the film’s cast and crew, visit <www.youoffendmeyouoffendmyfamily.com>.

The Hollywood Theatre is located at 4122 N.E. Sandy Blvd. in Portland. For more information, including complete dates and show times, call (503) 281-4215 or visit <www.hollywoodtheatre.org>.