Game of Death II

1981 kung-fu/Bruce Lee exploitation

Rating: 7/20

Plot: I wouldn't know where to begin. I believe revenge is involved. I know there's a monkey in there somewhere.

This is simultaneously one of the most ludicrous things I've ever seen and a film stringing together enough beautifully choreographed and athletic fight scenes to give me wood. Firstly, the ludicrous: Bruce Lee died after only filming 30 minutes of the original Game of Death, great action scenes (including a fight with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) taking place in a tower. After his death, the movie was made without him using stand-ins (including, I believe, Bruce Li who starred in numerous features of his own). That's borderline silly enough, but the makers of Game of Death II took it a step further--they made a sequel to the movie years after the star of the film had died. And he's still the star of the film! This is cut 'n' paste wackiness with stand-ins (I believe two of them), lots of dialogue filmed from behind "Bruce Lee," actors changing shape and clothes in the middle of conversations, walls in rooms changing color and decoration drastically, footage and deleted scenes from his other films, and even (I'm pretty sure) footage from Lee's actual funeral. I've read, although I didn't exactly spot it on my own, that there's even a scene where a cardboard Bruce Lee is used as a stand-in. The illogical plot reflects the plundered approach--it's senseless, spontaneous, and really really stupid. You're unaware who the real bad guys are in this one, probably because the filmmakers were also completely unaware who the real bad guys are. Most shocking of all is when Bruce Lee's character dies (as stupidly as Boba Fett in Return of the Jedi, I might add) in the middle of the movie and the brother, getting no screen time in the first half of the movie and being described as a porn-lovin' lazy slob of a disappointment, suddenly becomes the star of the movie. It was almost as if they had run out of footage of Bruce Lee (some, I swear, they had already used more than once anyway) and decided just to kill him off. In tribute, they show a montage of stills from Lee's career that is completely out of place since they are so obviously pictures of a celebrity and not the character in the movie. It's so bizarre and utterly unnerving.

Now the good: The bulk of the fight scenes in this were stunning and lots and lots of fun. Fast and furious, there's a good exhibition of mad kung-fu skills in this, from the master's easy fight with one of the challengers as he calmly drinks his tea to the brilliant and long climactic battle at the end. Along the way, you've got Bruce Lee's brother killing Gilbert Gottfried, a fight with about sixty silver-clad scientists (?), a ridiculous battle against a guy dressed as Tarzan, fisticuffs with what might have been a robot, and a kung-fu fight with a man in a lion suit who was probably supposed to be an actual lion. So many laughs and so many what-the-hell moments.

No comments: