James Lew started out as a stunt man on the TV series Kung Fu,
and went on to have a very successful career as an actor and stunt man
as well as a stunt coordinator. He has worked on such shows diverse
shows as Alias, Babylon 5, and Power Rangers Lost Galaxy,
as well as being the stunt coordinator for John Carpenter's cult classic
Trouble In Little China. Lew makes his directing debut with 18
Fingers of Death, a spoof on martial arts films and the workings of
Hollywood that the actor also wrote and stars in. As Edmund Gwenn
famously stated as he was on his death bed "Dying is easy. Comedy
is difficult." Lew learns this the hard way as he does more dying
in this film than being funny. Though the premise is funny and the
idea looks good on paper, this movie really never gels and the laughs just
Buford Lee (James Lew) has started in such classics Kung Fu films as
"I Kill You Until You Die" and "Crouching Chicken Hidden Duck", as well
as the TV show "Bong Fu". He's never had that one break out role
though that would make him a star. Until now. He's now stated
to star in 18 Fingers of Death, a film that has a lot of potential, but
Ronald Mack (Maurice Patton) is a huge Buford fan. ("I've seen all of
his movies at least once!") Fresh out of public school, this young inner
city youth takes on the task of documenting the creation of Buford's latest
film. Through interviews with other famous action stars, such as
Jackie Chong, and clips from Buford's classic movies, Ronald documents
the star's life. When it's discovered that there's no money for Buford's
film though, Mack convinces Lee to have a garage sale to raise the funds
and steps in as director himself.
There's a lot of comic potential in this film, but unfortunately it
never emerges. The opening scene, a clip from a film where Lee has
to fight "Deadly Thug" numbers 1, 2, 4 and 5 (#3 was at home with the runs),
was the high point of the movie. Things just went downhill from there.
Instead of setting up jokes and then giving the punch line, many of the
jokes were just the stupid name changes that they gave to the celebrity
impersonators. If seeing people with names like Chuck Snorris and
Steven Seafood tickles your funny bone, than this is the movie for you.
Otherwise, well....there's not much there.
There were several jokes in the film that border on being tasteless
too, making fun of people who stutter or have accents. In one scene
Patton asks Pat Morita, the proprietor of a restaurant, if they have any
Chinese Jews. Morita answers that they have "apple jews and orange
jews" but no Chinese jews. Boy make sure you've got the remote in
your hands so you can pause it until you stop laughing.
That's not even the low point of the film. That moment is an overly
long fight sequence were everyone battles with farts. Yep, I kid
you not. When they aren't using flatulence as a weapon, people are
farting every time they get hit. And they get hit a lot.
The script really needed a lot of work. Not only do the jokes
fall flat, but the film lasts too long. After the climax of
the film, when 18 Fingers of Death is released and we get the reaction,
the movie drags on for another 10-15 minutes for no apparent reason.
More than a little of this film probably came directly from James Lew's
experiences in Hollywood. Though some of the bit would have made
a great story for James to tell after dinner (like the scene when his manager
says that he can get him a job on Power Rangers and though he'll have to
wear a mask, the exposure will be great for his career) they just don't
work in the film. I really wanted to enjoy this film, but there just
wasn't anything there to laugh at.
This film has a stereo English soundtrack that fits the movie well but
is unspectacular. Several lines were dubbed in after filming was
completed, as it's pretty easy to tell where this was done, but other than
that there are no real problems with it. An average sounding disc.
There are no subtitles.
The anamorphic widescreen image looked average for a recent release,
though it was cropped from the original 1.85:1 to 1.78:1 for this release.
The image was a little soft but the level of detail and black levels were
fine. The colors were good, though large red areas had a tendency
to bloom a little. Overall a standard looking release.
This disc also has a five minute Behind the Scenes featurette
that consists of some candid footage of the cast clowning around on the
set. It looks like it was more fun to film than watch.
There is also a four-minute Pat Morita Tribute where the late
actor is interviewed and talks about his character and the relationship
between children and their parents. It was a nice monolog.
I especially liked his advice to young Asian actors: "Don't be Asian, be
an actor first."
There are also three deleted scenes that didn't make it into the final
film. 'Nuff said.
This was a low budget picture (very low budget...they reused several
actors and didn't have the money for extras. No only that, but the
producer was also the post-production supervisor, costume designer, supervising
sound editor, and casting director) but that isn't what causes it to fail.
The almost total lack of funny parts in this so called comedy is what kills
it. Skip it.