Return of the Dragon

Year: 1972
Directed By: Bruce Lee
Written By: Bruce Lee

RYAN’S REVIEW

Bruce Lee was one of the coolest guys to ever live, and this is my favorite of his films because it was all him. The actual title is “The Way of the Dragon,” but I own the American version that was released posthumous after Enter the Dragon became so popular. While Enter the Dragon was really cool this one is more exceptional because it was entirely the product of Lee. His credits included starring in the film, writing the story, directing it, and choreographing all the fight scenes. He died so soon after this film that it stands as nothing more than an indicator of what might have possibly come should he had been able to reach his full as a filmmaker and star.

Bruce Lee lived a very interesting and accomplished life but it ended far too soon. His sudden and peculiar death at the age of 33 left a hole in existence for he was on the way to such great things. Lee was a self motivated man who achieved in everything he set his mind to and there is simply no way to know what we might have missed out on should he have lived a full life. This movie was his first opportunity to fully take the reins in creativity. For the first time he had the freedom to work his art and send the messages he wanted to send. He weaved his messages into his particular form of entertainment so well for his first time, but he was barely scratching the surface of what he may have been capable of. I see this film as simply a sign of potential, but the sad reality was he never had the opportunity to really reach the next level. He died young and thus became a martyr and icon but he could have given us so much more. I find this movie immensely entertaining but on a certain level it also makes me sad. Sorrow for what could have been and will never be.

Bruce Lee was a physical specimen of Godlike qualities.  He seemed to defy all the laws of human capability and was able to do things physically that would have made Henry Houdini stand back and applaud. Lee was a tireless worker when it came to his training and his physique was the result of that, but there was more. Lee was naturally double jointed, as can obviously be seen during the pre-Chuck Norris fight warm up scene. He had the type of speed and power that are usually reserved for jungle cats or cobras, and he would mimic the sounds of animals during fights to intimidate his opponent. Lee didn’t just study one type of fighting but many until he ultimately started developing his own form, Jeet Kune Do.  Lee had an exceptional exterior charisma to go along with his supernaturally athletic capabilities. His few performances show a wide range of what he was able to express as an actor and he was still developing his skills. He could be funny and lighthearted, caring and compassionate, vulnerable and alone, and most importantly fierce and intimidating.

Yet there was so much more to the man than his screen persona. There was what he was all about underneath, and with the opportunity he had in this film he used it as a platform to speak his mind. Above all else Bruce Lee considered himself a teacher and this movie highlights those qualities. Lee was a natural leader because he was an incredibly deep person full of ideas and purpose. He stood for something that was much more than simply being a martial arts movie star. This movie, and truthfully all of his movies have strong themes about racism against Chinese people. Lee is generally always the hero standing up for his people but he doesn’t just stand up for them he leads them, and teaches them. That leadership could have gone a long way for not only his own people but in time ultimately the entire world. Lee put plenty of his thoughts and opinions down in print while he was alive and his books are available for anybody to read today.

To spend too much time talking about what Bruce Lee might have accomplished would be to overlook everything he did accomplish. In his short life Lee was able to do great things and succeed in plenty. I would encourage anybody unfamiliar with him to do your own research and learn as much as you can. He was an incredibly inspiring man who still holds the power to influence us posthumously.  Personally, I find Bruce Lee to be an incredibly influential person that I have learned plenty from. I often turn back to him when in need of motivation and a spark in finding my own personal drive. Lee’s work ethic could encourage a sloth and anybody not motivated to achieve more themselves after watching him is simply a lost cause.

I think Enter the Dragon was an awesome movie and undoubtedly worthy of its iconic status, but this movie gets the edge on it as far as I am concerned. It’s because this one was all his and he was allowed to do whatever he wanted with it. I think what he made suggested that so much more would have followed had he lived. He uses a variety of weapons in this movie but none better than those that he made famous, the nunchucks. He wields two at one time in this movie with such lethal precision that its difficult for the early 70s cameras to even capture them on film. I love the scene in which the Italian mafioso picks one pair up and attempts to use them but only succeeds in knocking himself in the head.

After a weird succession of strange events in my youth I found myself in possession of an authentic pair of nunchuks when I was a teenager. I could not use them and had yet to discover Bruce Lee for myself so I had no use for them and they actually went about lying in the backseat of my car for about a year. I lost them one fateful night when an interesting chapter took place in my life. Long story short. I and some friends had a run in with the police. We got away without trouble but after a lengthy process my nunchuks were confiscated by the police. To this day it still frustrates me and I know that officer went back to the station just to attempt his own stunts in front of his colleagues with what had become my nunchuks!

This movie features great fight scenes in which Lee takes on many, and others where he takes on great fighters solo. One of those solo fights is against his regular sparring partner Bob Wall, who can be seen in almost every one of his movies as a bad guy that Lee has to fight. The biggest gem in this movie is the ultimate fight at the end though. In the final stage of conflict Lee faces off with the imported American bad guy played by none other than Chuck Norris. The two masters of their skills prepare to square off while an adorable, and slightly starved looking, kitten looks on in anticipation. The kitten seemingly sounds the call of battle but if you ask me the poor thing is just yowling for food. When Lee and Norris finally fight Lee has seemingly met his match. Taking hard blows from seemingly the first man to actually hit him in the whole film. After being knocked down and taunted by Norris Lee realizes he needs to change up his game. He changes into a dancing stance and starts bouncing back and forth with great fluidity. Norris does not know how to adjust and Lee begins to have his way with him. It quickly becomes a fight to the death as Norris refuses to relent regardless his ability to go on and Lee is reluctantly forced to kill him.

If I’m not mistaken this movie quickly became the highest grossing film in Hong Kong history back in 1972. Lee would enjoy the success for nearly a year before dying suddenly in his sleep in July of 1973. The official diagnosis was brain aneurysm if I’m not mistaken but it was unusual to say the least. More than anything else it was unfortunate as it robbed the world of a great and inspiring entertainer. Lee was an interesting person and there is much to learn from the life he lived and what he left behind. He was a master of his art, and any opportunity to see a master work at his trade is a chance to see something marvelous. This is an awesome movie and even if you fast forward through the story to just watch the fight scenes seeing it is definitely worth your time to see.

NEXT MOVIE: Ricochet (1991)

 

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