Game of Death II
Distributed by Golden Harvest
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
When I bought the Bruce Lee Ultimate Collection, I thought I had seen every single movie in the DVD set. However, when I popped Game of Death II into the DVD player, I was surprised to realize that I had no memory of ever watching this film before. Surprising, because I had thought I had seen every film containing anything having remotely to do with Bruce Lee.
Like Game of Death, Game of Death II features footage of Bruce Lee shot before his death. Unlike Game of Death, Bruce Lee had never worked on this film and was released long after his death. People were shocked by Bruce Lee’s death and craving more footage of the legendary star who died before his time. After the success of the first Game of Death, viewers were clamoring for more. Enter Game of Death II in 1981.
In this film, Billy Lo (Bruce Lee/Kim Tai-Chung) visits his old friend and kung fu expert Chin Ku (Hwang Jang-Lee) and discovers that someone appears to be after kung fu masters. Challenges have become a more frequent occurrence. Shortly after their visit, Chin Ku dies of a mysterious sudden illness. Suspicious about his death, Billy searches for answers and winds up dead himself, killed while trying to prevent the theft of Chin Ku’s coffin at his funeral.
Younger brother Bobby Lo (Kim Tai-Chung) flies to Japan in an effort to find his brother’s killer and exact revenge. His initial investigation into Billy’s death leads him to the Castle of Death, home of Lewis (Roy Horan), a Caucasian student of martial arts and former student of Chin Ku. At first, Bobby suspects Lewis of having killed Chin Ku, especially after witnessing his thirst for blood. He believes Lewis to have been jealous of Chin Ku’s martial arts expertise. But when Lewis is murdered, Bobby realizes that it is his one-armed scar-faced valet (To Wai-Woo) whom he should really be suspicious of.
After Lewis’ murder, the valet disappears, confirming Bobby’s already growing suspicions. He tracks him down and discovers the mysterious Tower of Death, a pagoda built upside down, below ground. It is here that Bobby learns the truly shocking identity of his brother’s killer and prepares to exact his revenge.
Okay, so story-wise, this movie sucks. There is no feeling of continuity here. The scenes with Bruce Lee are horrible, not that Bruce Lee’s acting was bad. It’s just that the scenes were culled from extra footage from past movies. They had nothing to do with one another and the creator of this film struggled to make them appear as if they did, filming Kim Tai-Chung from behind to add some cohesive footage to the scenes. It was all just poorly done - much worse than in Game of Death.
Happily, while the storyline and Bruce Lee “inserts” were horrible, once the movie moved forward with Bobby Lo, the action scenes were terrific. Roy Horan doesn’t look like much thanks to his 70s scruffiness, but man, can he fight! Kim Tai-Chung’s mimicry of Bruce Lee’s fighting stances and moves are well done and you can almost believe that he is actually Billy’s younger brother, using a similar fighting stance and style, but modifying it to make the style his own. The fight choreography is amazing and the acrobatics are excellent.
The fights in the pagoda are interesting - you never really understand the silver suits of the tower’s occupants and computerized look of the lower levels of the tower. And that leopard print outfit of Yang Cheng-Chu is absolutely ridiculous. But the fight scenes are amazing from start to finish, showing off each actor’s prowess as a fighter and acrobat in his own right.
To me, touting Game of Death II as a Bruce Lee film is shameful and the creators of this film were wrong to do so. But despite that fact, Game of Death II is a fun movie to watch once you get to the meat and potatoes of the film featuring Bobby Lo. Fans of old school martial arts films will love the action of this film as much as I did. But if you were looking for great acting and a credible storyline, look elsewhere. And if you are a fan of Bruce Lee, there isn’t a whole lot to see here.