Way Of The Dragon

*Originally written in 2003

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Action movie performers typically don’t get much critical praise, yet every so often they will have a performance which transcends what they do or what the genre expects – think Stallone in Rocky. Bruce Lee was seen by some as a mere fighter, incredibly talented with fists and feet, but little else. They apparently missed Way Of The Dragon in which he gives a brilliant performance when not fighting, conveying a myriad of emotions. Lee wrote this film. Lee directed this film. All those movie critics are fools. For those who say the characters are clichéd or stereotyped, remember that this was made in 1972, the time when such stereotypes were being formed or in their infancy. A film is always of its time.

Tang Lung (Lee) is sent to Rome to help out some friends who need help to run their restaurant which has been getting hounded by gangsters. When he arrives he sees that local scum are trying to bully his family out of business, and he intervenes, proving to be a fierce, unstoppable fighter. As time passes Lee struggles to work out if violence should be used, while the bad guys increase in numbers. Eventually the bad guys send in Chuck Norris and in a twist, most of Lee’s family and friends are killed. Lee tracks the bad guys to the Colosseum, where he fights Norris in the best one on one fight in movie history.

As always, Lee deals with issues of racism, philosophy, violence, family, and self. The tourist sites of Rome remind Lee of the slums of China, which everyone avoids. His character is a haunted one and the tone is dark. ‘Wherever he walks, he will walk alone’ remarks one of his friends. Nora Miao gives a brilliant performance, as do Ping Ao-Wei and Chung-Hsin Huang. But Lee is the main draw, and he is breathtaking again. Few actors have had such an impact on cinema, on pop culture, and on modern life, in such a short time, as Lee has. Aside from the Norris fight, The fights outside the restaurant are excellent, and Lee’s ‘lamp kicking’ has to be seen repeatedly. Easily one of the best martial arts movies ever made, and one of the best movies of the 70s.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Way Of The Dragon!

Fist Of Fury

Perhaps Lee’s darkest and most violent film, Fist of Fury sees Lee famously taking on an entire school of fighters, and killing several bad guys in a more cold blooded and ruthless fashion than usual on his way to taking revenge on those who killed his master.

Lee’s character hears of his master’s death and returns to his school as their best pupil. He soon understands that his master was killed by a rival master, and uncovers a world of crime and prejudice. However, he knows that taking on the countless bad guys may cost him his own life and there are those still alive who care enough for him who try to stop him from going on this suicide mission.

While the script and story are simple, there is plenty of room for some of Lee’s best fight scenes and for his views on racism and morality; The scene where Lee destroys the sign prohibiting dogs and Chinese people from entering is a classic. Again, (with all Lee’s films strangely) the film has an excellent score and is well acted by everyone who has a major part, especially Lee. Nora Miao is sympathetic and looks gorgeous, and would go on to give a brilliant performance in Way of the Dragon. And it wouldn’t be a Bruce Lee film without an ambiguous ending, as Lee’s character…

This 2 disc DVD has plenty of great features worthy of The Man, The Myth. There are various documentaries, and priceless deleted scenes. The restoration job also is perfection, miles away from the blurry old VHS i used to rent in the eighties, or the recorded off TV copies. Like all of his films, a must have- and one all action fans, and genuine lovers of cinema should see.

Fist Of Fury
Feel free to comment on the movie- is this your favourite Bruce Lee film? Check out my other Lee reviews on the DVD section.

Game Of Death

Game Of Death

Structurally and historically a mess, Lee’s final film had the potential to be the greatest ever martial arts movie. Unfortunately, Lee died well before filming was completed, and his vision was never finished. However, the producers managed to finish the film by taking what had already been filmed, mostly fight scenes, and make a story round it, one based roughly on the many pages of scripts and ideas that Lee had left behind. As Lee’s original story was so complex though, and probably only he could have made it the way it should have been, the finished product is a mere shadow of the what was in Lee’s head. The story sees Lee’s character, a famous martial artist and actor faking his own death so that he can uncover the corruption of those who had previously tried to kill him. Not even his girlfriend is aware that his death was a fake. As the film progresses, Lee stalks the bad guys, his girlfriend gets suspicious, and Lee reaches a pagoda where he must overcome the trials of each floor in order to reach the top, and fulfill his revenge. Lee’s original script focused much more on the Pagoda scenes, with each floor showcasing a different martial arts style that Lee must overcome, using his own ‘way of no way’ style. With each floor completed, he would achieve a higher level of spiritual and fighting skill. The fight scenes are easily some of the best ever filmed, skillfully thought out, and beautifully directed, and no-one since has been able to capture the technique, skill, or intensity of Lee. The other fight scenes are also good, including the motorcycle scene, and Shower room fight. If anyone has any of the Hong Kong Legends DVDs they feature many deleted scenes, the Game of Death one being particularly good- The glass house fight is a classic. The actors brought in to finish shooting are unsure of themselves, which comes across on camera, but this is understandable considering they were finishing a film starring a man who had died years before. The music is excellent, the story messy, but the fights stand out. The overall tone of the film is dark and ominous, as Lee’s character is almost killed mysteriously, then fakes his own death, and the ending is not conclusive. Footage of Lee’s own funeral is used, which both adds to the tone and leaves a bad taste. However, it is a vital piece of work for any fan of Lee and should be remembered for its ideas, if not for how it eventually turned out to be.

 This 2 disc special edition contains many special features, and as with the other Lee films in this collection, they are all necessary for fans. There are deleted scenes and documentaries- but the real draw is the 40 minute cut of the film’s fight scenes as Lee originally planned them. A tragic glimpse at what could have been.

As always, feel free to leave any comments and thoughts on the movie- Could this have been Lee’s masterpiece?

Wong Fei Hung II: Nam yi dong ji keung: Ladder Match

Once Upon A Time there was a place called China II. It was filled with fierce warriors, magical wizards, dragons, and hobbits. Yes, this is the sequel to Once Upon A Time In China III, and also the prequel to Part I. It isn’t as good as the predecessor, but it’s better than Part I. Our hero Jet Lee returns, and this time HE’S PERSONAL! Living the peacable life for a few weeks (or a fortnight if you like) he travels with his girlfriend Uncle Eleven by plane to Japan for a medical seminar on medicine. Yes, the plot is a lot like Fear And Lovely In Las Vegas but we’ll excuse that (as well as the obvious physical similarities between Lee and Deppp). The peace doesn’t last long of course (it is a murial arts film after all!) and the lecture is infiltrated by the bastardly Brown Daisy Clan. They are ninjas or samurais or something, but one thing is for sure- they kick shins! Another thing is for sure that they are hard but Lee is harder and decides to take them all on.

This is the one where Lee takes on Donnie Osmond on the scaffolding of a building, up ladders, across wooden planks, and through cement mixers- it is usually not unregarded as one of the greatest if not worst fights of all times! It is very excitement with all sorts of kicks and punches and jumpings. When I watch I want to jump into the TV and join in. ‘HEE YA!’ I fly kick off the wall and knock some bad guy into the hay. Yeah! I love kicking things, it makes me feel super. As Bruce Lee once said, ‘Kicking things that don’t kick back is better- they don’t kick back.’ My brother Andy and me used to watch films like this, and then when our parents went out we would pretend we were ninjas and fight too. We would take off of our shoes, but leave on on our socks and fight. He was much smaller than me so I always won, though sometimes he would kick me in the gunnels. Sometimes we would swing at the same time and kick each others feet, that was really sore! It all ended though when the car came up the drive and we had to put all the cushions back on the seats. If mum saw there was a mess, she would turn into a ninja and beat us both, and we would end up in bed without any supper. Sometimes that chump from down the road, Brendan would come and annoy us when we were outside, so we would show off of our Kung Fu skills on him so he cried.

This film has many amazement moments and could only have been bettered if Bruce Lee had been in it. One other small problem is the obvious budget cuts. Halfway through the film you can tell that the bad guys are just cardboard cut outs, most noticeably when Lee puts his foot through one guy’s chest, gets stuck, and spends the next five minutes fighting with a supposed dead bad guy wrapped round his ankle. This wasn’t as bad as the first film where they still used actors, although there only were 4 so when Lee beat up and killed someone, they would get up, sneak round the side of the camera and fight him again. You can also clearly tell that when they run out of cardboard they throw paper mache dummy bad guys into the mix- there is obviously a grip or best boy or producer off screen throwing them into the scene beside the camera. This lends an odd tone to the film. Of course as we all know the last 15 minutes of the film are copied exactly from the first film because of the budget- annoying yes because we never find out what really happens, but good because those 15 minutes from the first were the best from that film apart from the first 90!

Best Scene: Lee kicking all the dummies that are being chucked into the room as real bad guys. The funniest part comes when someone grabs the director and throws him in and Lee kicks him in the throat. Ha Ha. The director never spoke again.