Finishing the Game imagines the behind-the-scenes drama surrounding producers’ attempts to finish Bruce Lee’s The Game of Death by hiring a stand-in for the star after his sudden death in 1973. In real life as in this fake ‘70s-era documentary from writer-director Justin Lin, the idea of replacing an icon with a body double proves lame-brained, and Lin’s return to indie filmmaking after back-to-back Hollywood pics (Annapolis, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift) is a jovial endeavor aimed at once again addressing the meager and disparaging big-screen representation of Asian-Americans. Vying for the iconic Lee role are a host of doofuses, including an impassioned half-Chinese activist who’s also blatantly Caucasian (McCaleb Burnett), a former cop show actor (21 Jump Street alum Dustin Nguyen) now selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door, and a B-movie Lee imitator who goes by the name Breeze Loo (Roger Fan). Their goofy efforts, as well as those of a wimpy director (Jake Sandvig) and an unctuous casting director (Meredith Scott Lynn), provide Lin with copious opportunities to mock the idiocies and racism of Hollywood film production. Unfortunately, aside from an agent hilariously slamming an audition session as “like a concentration camp” and Lynn defining stardom as “fuckability,” those prospects are more often than not wasted, since the delivery of most punchlines is frustratingly puny. Finishing the Game‘s observations about the unflattering celluloid treatment of Asians can be summed up by a greedy studio head’s (Sam Bottoms) “They all look alike” slander. If its critique sometimes lacks grace, it’s nonetheless bolstered by a shrewd understanding of the way pop culture exploits minority differences for entertainment purposes as well as co-opts rebellion against such treatment (the latter conveyed via Nguyen’s TV catchphrase “I ain’t gonna do your laundry!”), all while capturing the means by which minorities unwittingly, deleteriously perpetuate stereotypes through self-deception. Ironic, then, that this last message ultimately comes from a movie whose phony (albeit expertly created) mockumentary fabric indicates a similarly consuming desire to be something it’s not.
- IFC First Take
- 88 min
- Justin Lin
- Josh Diamond, Justin Lin
- Roger Fan, Sung Kang, Meredith Scott Lynn, Monica Gabriela Curnen, Mousa Kraish, McCaleb Burnett, Dustin Nguyen, James Franco
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