Genius Products // 2007 // 84 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Franck Tabouring (Retired) // June 20th, 2008
Who will be finishing the game?
After directing action hits such as Better Luck Tomorrow and The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, Justin Lin decided to take a break from helming big projects for studios and develop an indie flick about the search for a new Bruce Lee. Although Finishing the Game may at first look like a real documentary, it's not. Instead, it's a scripted mockumentary about a handful of eccentric characters trying to score the lead in an unfinished Bruce Lee project.
In 1973, kung fu expert Bruce Lee died suddenly at the age of 32, leaving behind about 40 minutes of footage (although this film claims it's only 12 minutes) from his dream project "The Game of Death." Studio executives, however, feel it's about time to complete the movie, and in order to proceed with the filming, they decide to look for potential replacements. Supervising the auditions for the film are director Ronney Kurtainbaum (Jake Sandvig) and his casting director Eloise Gazdag (Meredith Scott Lynn), who both have very different opinions about the bunch of actors competing for the lead role. It takes a lot of patience to finish this game.
Casting someone to replace Bruce Lee is a tough job, especially if you have a room full of awkward amateurs believing they're the perfect choice for the part. Finishing the Game kicks off with about 20 minutes of open auditions, during which Ronney and Eloise watch countless candidates showcase their talents (or the lack thereof). Among them is Breeze Loo (Roger Fan), who's already done his share of martial art films and thinks he looks just like the real Bruce Lee. Also giving it a shot is Cole Kim (Sung Kang), who hopes to score a role in his first Hollywood movie. Of course, there are also those who are not suited at all for the role but go for it anyway. Tarrick Tyler (McCaleb Burnett), for instance, is Caucasian, but he claims he's half Chinese and wants to "represent the Asiatic community," thinking he can actually pull this off.
After introducing these characters (and others) in greater detail, the plot switches to some kung fu training sessions, during which some of the actors get to show off their fighting skills. Wrapping it up is a series of screen tests, followed by the producers' thoughts and deliberations about who may actually be the best to play the new Bruce Lee. I don't really have a problem with how the film is structured, but what I do regret is that screenwriters Justin Lin and Josh Diamond failed to inject their project with enough humor. The real problem is that the film only features a limited number of jokes. Other than a few laughs during the auditions, Finishing the Game is quite simply too boring. Not counting the end credits, the film only runs for 76 minutes, which is still too long for a plot that's monotonous and devoid of tempting comedy.
The actors do very little to keep the movie alive, but some of them deliver decent enough performances. Let's say most of them do a pretty convincing job at playing over-motivated weirdos desperately seeking a career in the film industry. Acting honors however go to Meredith Scott Lynn as the film's casting director, who steals every scene she's in. You should also watch out for some solid cameos, notably by M.C. Hammer and the great James Franco, who plays a character in a TV crime series called Golden Gate Guns.
Overall, the movie has an intended old-fashioned look, and the video transfer is clean and pretty sharp throughout. The image is a little grainy at times, but that's not a big issue. There's not really anything negative to say about the picture quality, except that it's not that impressive. The audio transfer, although stereo, is just as fine. There's a lot of dialogue and music in the flick, but they're both well balanced.
Besides several mediocre deleted scenes and a rather boring 9-minute behind-the-scenes look, the bonus material on the disc also includes a pretty cool music video by Far*East Movement. Other than that, the only other special feature is a feature-length commentary by Justin Lin, co-writer Josh Diamond and composer Brian Tyler. The three of them definitely had fun recording this, but they didn't reveal anything of great interest. They basically only discuss the characters, actors, music and the origins of their ideas for the film. If you love the film you may enjoy listening to the trio, but if you found it boring the first time, I doubt you'll want to sit through the whole thing again.
Finishing the Game is not a complete disaster, but it's simply not original enough to entertain viewers for the entire 76 minutes. A few great jokes scattered across the movie just won't do the trick. In the end, this game is better left unfinished.
Review content copyright © 2008 Franck Tabouring; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Genius Products
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 84 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Filmmaker's Commentary
* On Set Mayhem
* Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
* Music Video
* Official Site