The Game of Death (1978)

The Game of Death [死亡遊戲] (1978)

Starring Tong Lung, Bruce Lee, Gig Young, Dean Jagger, Colleen Camp, Hugh O’Brian, Mel Novak, Roy Chiao, Robert Wall, Dan Inosanto, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Billy McGill, Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, Casanova Wong, Ji Han-Jae, James Tin Chuen

Directed by Robert Clouse

Expectations: Not much.


The Game of Death is a tricky film to review, but I’m sure it won’t be nearly as painful as actually watching the movie. The actual Bruce Lee footage is as great as it ever was, but everything that leads up to it is pretty sub-standard. The Robert Clouse-directed stuff is most of the movie, too — only 10 minutes or so are from Bruce Lee’s shoot — and there’s just no way around the fact that it’s boring. Even with Sammo Hung choreographing the fights, and Yuen Biao doing a lot of acrobatic double work for “Bruce,” the fights are largely uninspired and average compared to the best the Hong Kong industry was producing in 1978. For instance, Sammo made the absolutely incredible Wing Chun movie Warriors Two later the same year, and the quality gap between these two films is about as wide as the Grand Canyon.

Perhaps the difference lies in Robert Clouse’s direction; there is certainly no palpable passion in any of his material. The shift in tone and quality is jarring when Bruce finally shows up in the final 10 minutes with every bit of charisma he ever had. Bruce Lee was always passionate about his martial philosophy, and he focused on presenting it through his films — particularly The Way of the Dragon and the unfinished Game of Death. Care could have been taken to preserve this spirit, and present a version of Game of Death that was as much a celebration of Bruce Lee as it was an attempt to salvage the unfinished footage. Instead, it was decided to ditch Bruce’s vision for a cliched and rather dumb plot that just sort of stumbles its way towards the electric Lee footage.

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Twins (1988)

twins_1Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Danny DeVito, Kelly Preston, Chloe Webb, Bonnie Bartlett, Trey Wilson, Marshall Bell, David Caruso, Hugh O’Brian, Nehemiah Persoff, Maury Chaykin, Tony Jay, Heather Graham

Directed by Ivan Reitman

Expectations: Optimistic that I’ll still like it.

threestar


Twins is a hard movie to criticize because as much as I know it’s not a great movie, I thoroughly enjoy every minute of it. It’s films like this that make me question the necessity of critics to judge the “effectiveness” of a film. I did some quick research and, as I suspected, despite being a huge box-office hit, the critics gave Twins largely mixed and negative reviews. In my ’80s nostalgia I like to believe that everyone back then knew how to have a good time, but these critics are evidence against my ridiculous theory. Somehow over the last 20–30 years their desire for more realistic, less goofy films took hold, and movies like Twins are relics of the year they were produced, trapped in amber for all to peruse.

I know I’m getting rather heady for a film about Arnold and Danny DeVito playing twins, but the film’s happy-go-lucky nature brought as many thoughts about the current state of film as it did genuine smiles. This probably isn’t too different from how I experience a lot of ’80s films these days, although this one is a little light on plot, allowing for these heady thoughts to creep in. Regular readers will know my general preference for ’80s films over current stuff, and this film really reminded me of that tangible, real-world beauty that is largely missing from the slick, focus-tested films of current Hollywood.

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