Thursday, January 9, 2014

Movie Talk - Bruce Lee

Making men eat paper... Only God and Bruce Lee could make this happen.

So, what can I saw about Bruce Lee that hasn’t been already said? I mean, the guy was a legend! Not only was he one of the first Asian actors to hit it big in Hollywood, the man created his own style of martial arts. That’s cool in my book. He was also one of the prolific people that passed away in his prime (32 years-old). If you want to know more about him, watch a biography like Bruce Lee: A Warrior’s Journey and you’ll get all you need to know. I wouldn’t watch Dragon: A Bruce Lee Story for more info about him since that "biography” was so inaccurate. At least it was well acted. Today, I’ll be looking at the movies Lee did in his adult years. For those who don’t know, Lee did actually do some movies as a youth, but I won’t be looking at those. I’ll be looking at his five (technically four) movies.

I pretty much saw all of these movies in my youth. Enter The Dragon is one of the first movies I remember seeing. Game of Death (the 1978 version) came second in the viewing process. I saw the rest of the movies like The Big Boss, Fist of Fury, and The Way of the Dragon when we used to go to this one rental store in Pulaski. I forgot the name of the place but I know it used to be on Minor Hill Rd. I own Enter the Dragon and The Big Boss but I don’t know where they are at this moment. Since I haven’t seen the pre-ETD movies and G.O.D. in a long time, I viewed them online at places like Netflix and Veoh.

The Big Boss aka Fists of Fury
The Big Boss was released in 1971. When it was shipped overseas, it was named Fists of Fury. I guess some idiot didn’t know the language and switched the titles of this and the next movie up. In the movie, Cheng Chao-an (Lee) comes to a small town in to live with his cousins and work at an ice factory. He made a promise to his mother that he wouldn’t get into any trouble or fights. He must break that promise when his cousins start to go missing and he has to deal with the corruption at the ice factory.

For Lee’s first big movie, this one is pretty good. It had been a long time since I’d had seen it, so I really didn’t know how it would view it now. First, I thought the story was pretty cool and pretty dark. The ending has Cheng get arrested which makes since because getting arrested for killing people does actually happen. The fight scenes are pretty well done. They aren’t perfect, but they work. This is also the bloodiest movie on this list. Folk are getting stabbed everywhere in this one.  I also liked the music on here and this is the English dub I’m talking about. I’ve heard that other versions have different music.
Bruce Lee as Michael Myers!

There isn’t really a lot I don’t like about the movie. I just have some nitpicky things. One question about the story I have that I wonder why Cheng and his cousins didn’t go to the police. They kept going off on the word of the corrupt management at the factory and it makes them seem a little dumb. Another question I have is on Cheng and the love interest, Chow Mei. Those two are cousins, right? If so, Ew? Maybe they’re really distant cousins. Also, while a lot of the fight scenes are cool, most of them have a lot silly elements to them. Folk are jumping in the air like this is an early Tekken game and there’s a fight with attack dogs. Silliness and Bruce Lee rarely mix well. Overall, it’s not my favorite film on the list, but it is a good one.

Favorite Quotes:
Cheng Chao-an: Alright! Hold it! Now you get out of here, I'm warning you. You bastards can't push us around. If you wanna fight, I'll take you on.

Fist of Fury aka The Chinese Connection
Fist of Fury was released in 1972. Its name also got screwed up with it was shipped overseas. It ended up getting named The Chinese Connection and that’s a title that really doesn’t make sense for this movie. It takes place in Shanghai during the early 1900’s. The movie is a period piece and is the fictional aftermath of a real event: the death of Huo Yuanjia. In the movie, Chen Zhen (Lee) returns home to find that his teacher, Huo Yuanjia, has died of an illness. He believes the opposing Japanese school may have had his teacher killed, so he basically goes on a rampage to get to the bottom of Huo’s death.
Man, I hate that interpreter. 

 I think this is my second favorite Lee film. I’m kind of wishy-washy on that because this and Enter the Dragon are some of my favorite martial arts films. While it’s not perfect, I think it’s a great movie. All of the fight scenes are beautiful. From the fight in the Japanese school to the final fight at the boss’s house, everything is well-choreographed. The story is pretty good. It’s your standard revenge flick. We also see the effects Chen’s actions have throughout the film on his school and friends. The movie also has a pretty downbeat ending like the previous one.

There are a couple of issues with it. The Japanese are played as the villains and the portrayals seem over-the-top. They just seem flat-out evil in some scenes. I know it’s a period piece but I doubt all Japanese were complete d-bags at that time. Another flaw with the film is the dubbing of the English version. The quality’s pretty bad. The voices don’t match well but that’s to be expected with English dubs. Other than that, I like the film. It’s definitely one of Lee’s best ones.

Favorite Quotes:
Chen: Why did you kill my teacher? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?
Chen: This time you're eating paper. The next time it's going to be glass.
Chen: Now you listen to me. I'll only say this once. We are not sick men.

The Way of the Dragon aka Return of the Dragon
The Way of the Dragon was also released in 1972. This time, I believe someone was paying some attention to the title but not a lot. It was renamed Return of the Dragon overseas in order to cash in on Enter the Dragon. Lee directed, wrote, and produced the film as well. Some of the film was also filmed in Rome, Italy. In the film, Tang Lung (Lee) heads to Rome in order to help his relatives with their restaurant. They’re being pressured by a gang to sell the property over to them. Because of Tang’s skills, the gang calls in other martial artists to stop Tang. One of them is played by Chuck Norris. Yes, it’s this movie.
Oh no! He has two nunchukus!!!

This movie is not my favorite, but it is still a pretty good one. This is Lee’s first action comedy and it is pretty lighthearted for the most part. The first scene sets that tone. The last 30 minutes of the film is full of death, of course. It wouldn’t be an action film without that! I will say that most of the comedy bits work for me.  My favorite one might be the one with Tang and the other woman whom I’m guessing was a prostitute. The story is pretty decent. I also like the “stranger in an strange land” aspect of the story. The few fight scenes here aren’t great but they do get better towards the end when the karate dudes pop up. The fight between Tang and Colt (Norris) is probably the best final fight in any of these movies.

I wasn’t a big fan of the music in this one. It was mostly silly sounding and a little annoying. At least it fit the tone of the film. As I stated above, there are only a few fight scenes here and some of them are not that great except for the final fights. There’s also a twist involving the Uncle which felt thrown in towards the end. He goes all psychotic for little reason and we didn’t see any of this beforehand. It was pretty weird.  Overall, I like the film but it’s not my favorite on the list.

Favorite Quotes:
Tang Lung: Let him know. If I ever see him here again... HE WON'T LEAVE ALIVE!
'Uncle' Wang:I have to do this! I have to... muahahahahahahahahahahaaaaa...
Ah Quen: In this world of guns and knives, wherever Tang Lung may go to, he will always travel on his own.

Enter the Dragon
Enter the Dragon was actually the last movie Bruce Lee finished before he died. The story is that Lee was already working on Game of Death when Warner Bros. told him that they wanted to do an authentic martial arts movie. The movie was released in theatres in 1973 about a few weeks after he died. The movie centers around Lee and two other martial artists as they participate in a fighting tournament on an island. Lee is essentially a spy in this for some unknown group, so if you wanted to see an Asian James Bond, here you go. I’m just going to say it right now: this is one of my favorite movies ever.
Great scene from a great movie.

Just about everything about the movie is pretty good. The acting’s passable for a movie like this. It also has some memorable characters like Williams (Jim Kelly), Roper (John Saxon), Han (Kien Shih), and Bolo (Yeng Sze aka Bolo Yueng). This movie also has some of my favorite quotes ever.  The fight choreography is well done as always. The music is pretty awesome. It has a nice blend of jazz, funk, and oriental music. The overall look of the movie is straight-up beautiful. You really get to see certain aspects of China’s culture.

Is it perfect? It has a couple of small issues, but that doesn’t stop the movie from being pretty epic. A couple scenes aren’t well-shot. One example I can think of is some of Lee’s fighting in the underground cave. The plot is also pretty simple and not as good as some of the plots in Lee’s previous films. Still, that doesn’t stop it from being one of my favorite films. If you haven’t seen it, you should.

Favorite Quotes:
Lee: Boards don't hit back.
Williams: Man, you come right out of a comic book.
Lee: My style? You can call it the art of fighting without fighting.
Thug#1: It's the dough Roper, or we gotta break something.
Han: We are investing in corruption, Mr. Roper. The business of corruption is like any other business.
Shaolin Abbott: Remember: the enemy has only images and illusions behind which he hides his true motives. Destroy the image and you will break the enemy.
Lee: You have offended my family, and you have offended the Shaolin temple.

Game of Death (Original and Unreleased)
Lee had to stop production on Game of Death in order to do Enter the Dragon. He only did an outline for the story and filmed some fight scenes. After ETD wrapped up, Lee went back to Hong Kong to work on G.O.D. until he passed away. It wasn’t until the later 2000’s where the unused film and plot were talked about in a biography called Bruce Lee: A Warrior’s Journey. I actually remember seeing this on TV. They talked about the basic plot of the film and even showed the full fight scenes from the movie. In the movie, Lee plays a retired martial artist who is forced to retrieve an item in a highly-guarded, five-level pagoda.
Lee: Go for it.
Other Guy: I don't know... 

If you’ve seen it, those scenes from the revised Game of Death are definitely shown in a different light. One big difference from these fight scenes is that Lee (Hai Tien) had two companions with him who fought the combatants in the pagoda. They both get killed at the top by Kareem. The scenes themselves were okay. Since this was essentially an unfinished product, I really can’t judge it like the other movies. I do wish that someone has or had used the notes and script in order to finish this movie because it seemed interesting. This movie was supposed to showcase Lee’s views on martial arts in general. Unfortunately, we ended up getting a whole new Game of Death…

Game of Death (1978) aka “G.O.D. In Name Only”, “GINO”, “That Ain’t Bruce Lee!” and “Cut and Paste!”
This movie came out in 1978 and it was directed by Rob Clouse, the same director of Enter the Dragon. The movie is about a martial arts actor who’s being threatened by the mob. When he is shot, he decides to fake his death and get his revenge on the mob. A lot of people give this movie crap for a lot of good reasons. Still, there’s a part of me that likes it. It may just be nostalgia on my end. It was the second Bruce Lee movie I saw though it technically doesn’t count as a Lee movie.

Since it was billed as starring Bruce Lee, a lot of footage from his older movies is used. There are also two doubles to stand in for Lee during the movie. They’re either wearing disguises or sunglasses. When watching the film now, you can tell where a lot of the actual Lee footage came from. It was edited in badly during the movie. Even the footage from the original G.O.D. is edited weird. There’s even this one scene at the beginning that actually has a cardboard cut-out of Lee. That’s just bad. Not only do they have footage from his movies, they also included footage from his actual funeral. Now, that’s just messed up beyond all reason.

Now, that’s not to say that the movie is all bad. If this wasn’t a Lee movie, it would just be your ordinary revenge flick. The acting’s okay and the fight scenes are okay. Some of the yells and shouts are a bit weird though. The music is probably the only good thing about it even though it feels that it could fit with a James Bond flick. It was composed by John Barry who also composed a lot of the music for the James Bond movies. Overall, it’s okay but I can’t really recommend this. If you know little about Lee and just want to see a random martial arts flick, check this out. If you’re a Lee fan, you probably won’t like it.

Favorite Quotes:
Billy: WHERE IS THE DOCTOR!?!?!?!?!?
Billy: You lose Carl Miller!

Finally, here’s a ranking of the movies:
1. Enter The Dragon – It’s one of my favorite movies in general.
2. Fist of Fury – The fight scenes and story make this movie worth watching.
3.The Big Boss – Lee’s first major movie isn’t great, but it isn’t a waste of time either. It’s good.
4. Way of the Dragon – While it’s a little too lighthearted at times, the final fight between Lee and Norris make this worth a watch.
N/A.The Original Game of Death – 39 minutes of unused footage isn’t a movie, so I can’t rank this. Still, it's nice to see what this movie could have been.
10.Game of Death (1978) – If this movie wasn’t billed as a Lee movie and removed all of the Lee footage, it may had been decent. Unfortunately, this “tribute” to Lee falls flat in a lot of places.

Well, that’s all I have for this list which is unfortunate. Lee accomplished a lot in his short time. I wonder what else he would have accomplished if he lived longer. Fortunately (or unfortunately for me mostly), this isn’t the last thing I’ll cover that involves Bruce Lee in some capacity. What are they? You’ll find out eventually. Until then, Peace, God Bless, and here’s some advice: “Don’t Think! Feel.”

No comments:

Post a Comment