Bruce Lee

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)

 

Enter the Dragon

Year: 1973
Directed By: Robert Clouse
Written By: Michael Allin

RYAN’S REVIEW

When I was in college I wrote a research paper on this movie and on Bruce Lee.  It has long since been a favorite of mine and I love watching it. Like any other guy I have always been a sucker for a good fight scene, and nobody put together fight scenes like the greatest fighter in film history.  Enter the Dragon is one of the most legendary martial arts films in movie history.  It set the tone for many other films to come and was martyred by the death of Bruce Lee right before its release.  Lee put together an impressive performance before he died and he will be remembered forever because of it.

Bruce Lee is like no other fighter seen on film, he is so fluid and natural.  While an impressive physique is commonly seen in today’s actors that wasn’t the case in 1973.  Bruce Lee was a freak of nature in this film; not only physically but mystically as well given his incredible snake taming abilities. What Lee showed in this film more than anything was potential. Potential to be one of the greatest celebrities of all time. His death was a tragedy felt by fans all over the world, and he will always be remembered fondly.  In 1973 he wasn’t big enough to headline this movie alone in the US though so John Saxon was cast to co-star.  Saxon may have been a washed up actor with little talent but he was white, so he qualified for a big role in this movie.  You can also clearly see elements of blaxploitation in this movie with the Williams character. Jim Kelly may have been a pretty crappy actor but what an awesome character he made in this film.  Not that his acting was any better here but that afro was out of this world. Bolo Yeung looks like an Asian Lou Ferrigno in this movie with his massive size and bulk. If you think he is impressive here you should see him fifteen years later in Bloodsport, he is even more roided up in that film.  Bob Wall does a great job of getting his ass kicked by Bruce Lee again, he appeared in 3 of Lee’s 4 films.  Jackie Chan can also be seen as an extra in this film, he is the guard who gets his neck broken dramatically during the big fight scene with the guards.

Bruce Lee is one of my personal heroes, I have tried my best to incorporate certain parts of his character into my own.  His determination, skill, and drive are things I have all admired and tried to learn from. Lee is more of an icon because he died young but he lived a life we can all learn from. His story is one I would like to encourage anybody out there to research because it really is extraordinary. We will have two more opportunities to discuss Bruce Lee on our journey through our DVD rack.  We don’t own Game of Death because Lee is only in it briefly, but we do own all the movies he truly starred in.

This was a great film and if you enjoy martial arts films then it is one you definitely need to see. What makes fight scenes so great is that in all new movies they make efforts to out do what was done before them.  I specifically enjoy that reality of films, but this movie can stand toe to toe with anything that has come out in the last forty years.  It was that good then and is that good now.  It is more than worth your time.

NEXT MOVIE: Equilibrium (2002)

Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story

Year: 1993
Directed By: Rob Cohen
Written By: Robert Clouse & Linda Lee Caldwell (book). Edward Khmara, John Raffo, & Rob Cohen (screenplay)

RYAN’S REVIEW

Bruce Lee was one of the most enigmatic and incredible celebrities to ever live; a true icon who did not have enough time on this Earth.  What I have never understood is how a movie about him could receive such a low budget.  This movie enjoyed some box office success but it is a pretty generic film.  Something tells me this will not be the only Bruce Lee biopic though. With the lack of original ideas coming out of Hollywood it is only a matter of time before a big budget film is one day made about Bruce Lee.  The real problem is probably finding someone who can actually play the part of Lee.

This isn’t a great movie but I have always liked it and it is really good for what it is.  Jason Scott Lee is a poor substitute for the real deal but he isn’t bad.  He puts a lot of heart into the role and you can see that when you watch his performance. Bruce Lee’s son, Brandon Lee, was actually offered the part but he turned it down to take the role of The Crow. That is unfortunate as it was during the filming of that movie that Brandon was killed in a freak accident when live ammunition was in a gun instead of blanks. Lauren Holly isn’t bad in the movie either but I have never really been a fan of hers. If making this film had been a serious priority of Universal Studios then it wouldn’t have been put in the hands of Rob Cohen. He made a really campy movie about Bruce Lee. It isn’t a bad film but it isn’t great either.  Not only that but Cohen is way off track and deviates from the truth frequently.  Truth is, Bruce Lee deserves better. He was such an iconic person and a true legend.  Any attempt to make a film about his life should amount to more than what we see in this movie.

I do like this film though because I like Bruce Lee so much I will nearly watch anything about him.  This movie is to only be enjoyed though, and not taken seriously at all. It is a completely and thoroughly inaccurate portrayal of real events. For example, Lee never had his back broken in a fight.  That fight did take place but at a different location then what we see in the film and there was no rematch between the two.  There was also no vengeful brother who came after Lee during the shooting of The Big Boss. Those are just a couple of examples of the many inaccurate things seen in the movie. The soundtrack to the film nearly makes the film unbearable today too because it has been used regularly in trailers for the last 20 years. It makes the theme a bit too sappy as well.  I don’t know that this movie is really worth your time, but if you are a Bruce Lee fan then it is a must see, it’s all we got. Take it with a grain of salt though and do your own research, the real story is more than interesting enough.

AMBER’S REVIEW

Dragon, the story of Bruce Lee. Bruce Lee was a total bad ass and remains an icon. I love Bruce Lee. I do not love this movie. I find it really long and boring. It’s not a movie that I would recommend unless you like inaccurate accounts of historical figures.

NEXT MOVIE: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

The Chinese Connection

Year: 1972
Directed By: Wei Lo
Written By: Wei Lo.

RYAN’S REVIEW

Bruce Lee was a God among men.  One of the biggest icons of all time. Probably the biggest icon when you take into account that the main body of his work was done over a two-year period before his death. His physical perfection, his discipline, and his philosophy are all things that every one of us can learn from.  He only gave us four full films before his tragic and untimely death and we must cherish all of them because they are all we have. Die young as a celebrity and you will live forever.  That is especially true for Lee who is still an icon to this day.  He died when he was 32, and he was only then beginning to blossom into the mega superstar he was becoming.  I will discuss Bruce Lee at greater length when we get to some of his other films.

This is a really campy movie and I wouldn’t recommend actually watching it because it isn’t worth your time in that sense.  There are long retarding points to the story that don’t make the movie worth watching.  What makes this film worth watching are the fight scenes, and the skill and choreography of a true master.  Lee is incredible in any and all fight scenes.  He was still developing as an actor and there are plenty of silly scenes where he goes a little over the top, specifically in the film’s opening. This was Bruce Lee’s second film and the first in which he displayed his skill with the nunchuks.  For all practical purposes Lee made the weapons the popular fixture in martial arts that they have become today. As a matter of fact, for all practical purposes Lee is the father of martial arts films in America.  He popularized the movement in American films that is still growing to this day.  He was the best, and the fight scenes in his movies still rival those of today.  People have a natural thirst and desire to see fights. It’s a guilty pleasure for some and an open fascination for many of us but it is there in all of us all the same.

Bruce Lee was the greatest martial artist of all time and everyone should see all of his films to understand why.  Don’t bother wasting time with the story when you watch this one, just fast forward to the fight scenes and enjoy the show.  It doesn’t matter what they are fighting about, Bruce Lee is the good guy and he probably has a really good reason for kicking the asses of all those bad guys.  There are messages about racism in this film and a loose footnote of actual Chinese history but personally I’m not interested in that.  Chinese Connection is my least favorite Bruce Lee film, but all Lee films hold weight with me because there are only four.

NEXT MOVIE: The Chronicles of Riddick (2004)