Bullet Points: 18 Fingers of Death!
If it is true that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, than mocking is the funniest. Who doesn’t love to watch someone or something getting roasted with a little good natured ribbing? Especially when it is done in good fun without animus and the target is easy prey. Of course, if you are the recipient of said mocking it might not be so funny. Kung fu films might have to put on the big boy panties and sail out to the deep water as I just happen to have some Bullet Points for one of my favorite send ups of the kung fu genre. Join me on a journey to the 2006 mockumentary written by, directed by, produced by, and starring James Lew, 18 Fingers of Death!
- Mock You Very Much – 18 Fingers of Death! is presented as a documentary about the prolific kung fu film actor Buford Lee (James Lew) and his attempt to make his next film, the aptly titled 18 Fingers of Death! Buford Lee has been in countless films, but he is not the star that he once was and the only way he can make his film is to finance it himself. Ronald Mack (Maurice Patton) is a diehard Lee fan and wannabe filmmaker who has taken it upon himself to create a documentary about Lee and subsequently becomes the director of 18 Fingers of Death! The audience watches the action play out through the lens of the documentarian, through clips of Lee’s previous movies, and interviews with important people in Lee’s life. The rub is that it is all fake even though many of the scenes and vignettes have a tinge of the reality of the sometimes over the top absurdness of many kung fu films.
- Mocking Hilarious – There is no better way to mock kung fu movies then by making fun of some of the famous personalities. Try some of these spoofs on for size (played by some legit action stars no less.) Jacking Chong (Robin Shou, Mortal Kombat), Steven Seefood (get it because he is now fat), Chuck Snorris (get it because he is boring), Billy Buff and his Bo Thai training method (Bokeem Woodbine, The Big Hit), and Antonio Bandana (Lorenzo Lamas, Bounty Tracker) and holy crap those are equal parts cheese and awesome. There are is also jokes at Jean-Claude Van Damme’s expense, intimating that he wears women’s g-strings. My favorite bit has to be Don ‘The Dragon’ Wilson (The Martial Arts Kid) as himself teaching acting. HA! HA! HA! God bless James Lew for that one.
- Mock It To Me – You might be thinking that 18 Fingers of Death! is one big barrel of laughs, but for a movie that is essentially a goof, the fight scenes are legit. When James Lew is involved (he was also the fight and stunt coordinator,) it is pretty hard to imagine the fights are going to be subpar. Not only are the fights highly entertaining, but they are numerous enough to keep you serious action fans entertained. The shots at kung fu movies don’t stop during the fights as most fights feature the action movie trope of attacking one at a time. The most farcical fight has go to the flatulent filled “The Legend of the Drunken Bastard” fight. 18 Fingers of Death! also manages to squeeze in a love story with Buford Lee and his co-star Sushi Cue (Lisa Arturo) take their relationship from professional to personal. Lisa Arturo might not be a big time martial artist actor, but she got a few kicks in and was undoubtedly under the tutelage of James Lew.
18 Fingers of Death! is the kind of movie that you need to know what you are getting into before you start. If you are expecting a serious action film or even serious documentary about the making of an action film you will be disappointed. If you go into 18 Fingers of Death! knowing that it is a mockumentary and it is meant to be fun you should be entertained. (You should also expect low brow jokes.) 18 Fingers of Death! will not thrill you like a big budget action movie. The production quality, dialogue, and acting might skew to the lower end of the spectrum, but there is heart behind movie and if you are familiar with the many kung fu praxes you will see how they make for such easy pickings. It also doesn’t hurt to know that the fight scenes are also entertaining. If you go into Bullet Points expecting some Bonus Bullet Points you will not be disappointed because here they come.
- Multi-Hyphenate – I already mentioned that James Lew wrote, directed and starred in 18 Fingers of Death! but I was most impressed with his nearly spot on impersonation of Bruce Lee. Or at least until his character stops with the accent and explains that it was just an act. Actually, the more I hear the impression it is a better Jason Scott Lee as Bruce Lee impersonation.
- If You Ever Wanted to See… Lorenzo Lamas sing “Guantanamera” (just like in one of my personal favorites Traxx) than 18 Fingers of Death! is for you. I bet The Sandpipers are still rolling over in their graves.
- Inappropriate Name – I already mentioned some of the funny names but I can’t leave out George Cheung (Curaçao) as Dr. Fook Yu.
- Best Quote – Hearing Pat Morita as Buford’s dad Freeman Lee saying, “…from the snooter to the patooter” is worth the price of admission.