Last night, I went down to the Gene Siskel Film Center to check out Justin Lin's (Better Luck Tomorrow, Fast & The Furious: Tokyo Drift) new film Finishing The Game at the 12th Annual Chicago Asian American Arts Showcase.
I had originally heard about the movie from a round-up of the Sundance entries done by G4tv (search: "Sundance", then click on the first result). Set in the 1970's during the aftermath of Bruce Lee's death, Finishing The Game is a "mockumentary" that follows 5 actors vying for the role of Bruce Lee's body double in the studio's attempt to finish The Game of Death.
After seeing G4's short profile of the film, I noticed a great article in Wired the other day. The article just happened to mention the film would be showing at the Chicago Asian American Arts Showcase so I copped a ticket online and headed down there.
I really didn't know what to expect when I got there, but was surprised to find both Justin Lin and Sung Kang just sittin' around chillin'. There was music, art, hors devours and Roger Fan was hanging around too. I spoke with Justin and Sung for a little bit and they were really cool.
Anyway, the movie was good. Lin's first attempt at comedy was quite hilarious. Especially considering that most of the actors in the cast had not really done comedy before. I have to say though that the film was not quite as over the top as I had expected. It was still very funny, but felt like it could have been a little more ridiculous without sacrificing anything. Pushing the absurdity envelope a little more could just be left over desire after watching similar efforts like Men With Cramps. To be fair though, the movie is plenty funny. For instance the opening scene in which actor Breeze Loo (Roger Fan) takes on a Nazi Kung Fu Master in a film called Fists of Fuhrer. There are also a few moments of serious dramatic merit. One scene of particular genius features Sung Kang acting very intensely, but given the context of the scene the whole thing comes off as being completely hilarious. It's a pretty interesting moment and one that is indicative of Kang and Lin's talent. The film as a whole also serves as quite the commentary on casting Asians in film projects within the Hollywood system.
Also, totally worth checking out is the soundtrack. Written by Brian Tyler (who has scored almost all of Lin's other films), the music in the film is a blast of retro funktastic soul grooves. If you like funk, you will adore this soundtrack... whenever it's released. The Fast & The Furious: Tokyo Drift Score was so good I actually broke down and bought it off iTunes, so I will definitely be snapping this up as soon as it's available.
In the end, Finishing The Game was really entertaining and I highly recommend it. After the film there was a Q&A session and Tim (the festival organizer on the left) and the others discussed the tribulations of independent film and ways we can help spread the word (ie: throwin' up blog entries like this one). There was also a lot of talk about the state of Asian-American cinema, about which I was informed is vastly different and compartmentalized from Asian cinema (as in cinema that's actually from Asia). I really had never considered the difference before, but it makes sense. Asian-American films are marginalized in the West because of marketing demographics, yet can also be snubbed in Asia because Asians want American films featuring white people, not more Asians.
Lin told me that we can hope for a wide theatrical release sometime in the fall, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled for Finishing The Game.