Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Just days ago I saw the principle in this film ’18 fingers of Death’, James Lew in the Steven Seagal tragedy ‘Today You Die’ where he spouted off his only line in that flick, the now classic phrase of ‘Freeze Bitch White Boy Bitch!" Mind you he wasn’t a cop or anything so I don’t why in the hell he was yelling ‘freeze’, but that line pretty much was a cherry on top of a film that was nothing short of a reverse cinematic masterpiece. Mr. Lew has had a long career, well over twenty years, doing stunts and being this Asian thug or that Asian thug in some movie or Television show. I even see here where my man was on T.J. Hooker. Can’t beat T.J. Hooker dog. But yet in the background James Lew has toiled with ‘Freeze Bitch White Boy Bitch’ being about the most I’ve ever heard him say in a flick. Ah but things are about to change. In the glorious tradition of two of my favorite mockumentaries, ‘This is Spinal Tap’ and ‘Fear of a Black Hat’ comes ’18 Fingers of Death’, the story of the mythical kung fu action hero Buford Lee. Any movie that has the title ‘I’ll Kill you until you die’ can’t be all bad can it? Well….

Young Ronald Mack (Maurice Patton) has just received a new camcorder for his high school graduation and has decided to make a documentary following around his favorite obscure cinematic Kung Fu master, Buford Lee. Buford is in the process of planning his next great feature ’18 fingers of death’ which is the seventeenth sequel to his original ‘1 finger of Death’. As Ronald and his cam travel through the bowels of Hollywood to get as much information as they could on the life and history of Buford Lee, they run into all kinds of amusing characters such as super star action hero Jackie Chow (Robin Shou), overweight Aikido master Steven Seefood (Kirk Graves), fitness guru Billy Buff (Bokeem Woodbine), Spanish crooner and action hero Antonio Bandana (The legendary Lorenzo Lamas) and Don ‘The Dragon’ Wilson who is teaching a class on how to make a good Kung Fu action flick. Some might ask ‘how in the hell would Don ‘The Dragon’ Wilson know anything about making a good Kung

Fu action flick.  But I wouldn’t be one of those people saying that kind of stuff, because we’ll always have ‘Soft Target’ Mr. Wilson. I do notice the respect being shunted to Wilson, a true fighter, as opposed to mocking the others. Though I thought Billy Blanks was some kind kickboxing champion.

Anyways, we also meet Buford’s father played by the late Pat Morita in his final role. He may be Mister Miyagi to you, but he’ll always be Arnold to me. Also, funding for ’18 Fingers of Death’ falls through leading Ronald and Buford to sell everything they have and fund the movie themselves. In the casting process of the movie Buford meets the true love of his life in Sushi Cue (Lisa Arturo). Why they named her Sushi Cue is beyond me. Perhaps because she’s white, as in cue ball, and wears Chinese clothes? I hope that’s not correct because that would mean that me and James Lew, who wrote this, think alike, and I don’t think that would please Mr. Lew. With the Sundance deadline looming will Ronald and Buford get ’18 Fingers’ in the can in time?

Have you ever seen a movie that wasn’t very good but you really didn’t want to trash it because everybody in it seemed like they were really nice? No? Well anyway, that’s how I felt about ’18 Fingers of Death’ because I could feel the good intentions easing out of the cracks of this film but the lot of it just didn’t come together to form a lot of funny stuff. It wasn’t devoid humor though as my man who was sending up Steven Seagal was pretty damn funny and the fight scenes weren’t too bad. But James Lew just isn’t much of an actor. I’m sure he can kick most folks ass, and believe me that’s worth something, but as a master thespian or a comedian with impeccable comic timing dude just ain’t. And we need to start capping fart jokes in movies at two. Any more than two fart jokes in your flick is hereby a prosecutable offense.

But I have seen some truly wretched direct to video comedies, ‘The Foursome’ and ‘Cougar Club’ I’m talking to you, and this was way more amusing than either of those horrors of ‘comedy’, and if you do have a bit of a soft spot for Kung Fu and people poking fun at fat aikido masters then maybe ’18 Fingers of Death’ won’t seem so bad. I sure wish this were funnier though because as I look at the Filmography of James Lew, this is a dude has more than put in his time and paid his dues. I Sure hope he gets another shot at it.

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