Writer-director Justin Lin's follow-up to THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS: TOKYO DRIFT (2006) is a scrappy mockumentary that returns to the themes and style of his debut feature, the low-budget SHOPPING FOR FANGS (1997).
It's 1973, and the sudden death of 32-year-old martial arts star Bruce Lee has left Los Angeles-based exploitation mogul Martey Kurtainbaum (Sam Bottoms) holding 12 minutes' worth of footage of Lee's unfinished "Game of Death." Never one to waste a potentially profitable asset, Martey puts his son, film school graduate Ronny (Jake Sandvig), in charge of finding a double for Lee and shooting enough footage to stretch the Lee sequences into a releasable feature. Accompanied by a documentary crew, Rodney hires pushy casting agent Eloise Gazdag (Meredith Scott Lynn) and begins the search for a stand-in. The candidates include glib, egotistical Hong Kong star Breeze Loo (Roger Fan); Troy Poon (Dustin Nguyen), reduced to selling vacuum cleaners after his series "Golden Gates Guns" went down in a cloud of sordid scandal; Vietnam war baby Cole Kim (Sung Kang), whose only audition to date turned out to be for a porn film; Raja (Mousa Kraish), who promised his dying mother he'd go to medical school, then left medicine to pursue a career in acting; and Tarrick Tyler (McCaleb Burnett), who's deeply invested in his Asian identity despite the fact that he looks more like Chuck Norris than Bruce Lee.
Lin's screenplay takes off from the real-life scramble to exploit every scrap of the late Bruce Lee's commercial cache, which included the cobbling together of the real-life GAME OF DEATH (1978), which was built around 12 minutes of existing footage the actor shot before starting ENTER THE DRAGON (1973), the film that cemented his international stardom. The end result is equal parts goofy, behind-the-scenes Hollywood satire and lighthearted exploration of Asian stereotypes, studded with cameos that include M.C. Hammer as manager Roy Thunder, who supplies ethnic actors for bit parts; adult movie legend Ron Jeremy as a portly porn star; James Franco as a junior agent; and George Takei as the dubbing voice of a chop-socky movie villain. It feels as though everyone involved was having a rollicking good time, and while the film itself is wildly uneven, Lin and company get in a few pointed jabs at Hollywood fatuousness and self-delusion, cultural stereotypes and '70s fashions. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh