Game Of Death (1978)

Directed by
Worse than I remembered
Reviewed by Simon on 2023-11-04

When I was young and naïve and first getting into martial arts films, and - quite importantly - didn't really know what Bruce Lee looked like, I really enjoyed Game Of Death. Well, as much as I enjoyed any of the Bruce Lee films I bought on dubbed VHS, anyway... which wasn't actually all that much, to be honest.

Now that I'm older, wiser and watching the stunningly restored in 4K Arrow release, it's impossible not to notice that for most of the film you're watching somebody pretending to be Bruce Lee, with really poor inserts of shots from Lee's actual films only serving to rub the fact in (the radically different film stock is quite obvious here, apart from anything else).

The film attempts to insinuate that Bruce Lee faked his own death to go undercover to fight crime, by having someone a lot like Bruce Lee fake his own death to go undercover to fight crime. It's either quite a touching idea to create a myth to sustain Bruce Lee's legend or deeply offensive exploitation of a tragedy, and I can't quite decide which.

It's a difficult film to rate, because if you're at all interested in martial arts cinema history you have to watch it, but the more interested in martial arts cinema history you are the more it will piss you off. By my reckoning that's 3 penguins out of 7, YPMV.

I am looking forward to watching the Final Game Of Death feature, which goes through all the storyboards and footage that Bruce Lee actually shot for the project, before putting it on hold to make Enter The Dragon. I suspect that's a much better way to pay respect to the man's legacy.