Bruce Lee brings an effortless grace and charm to this entry on the 101 Action Movies list.
It had been awhile since I’d last watched it, so I quite enjoyed the chance to revisit this one. Lee plays, well, Lee. An exceptional martial artist at a Shaolin temple to go undercover in a tournament on the island of Han (Shih Kien), a former Shaolin monk who has since fallen to evil. He sells drug, runs women, and has an army at his disposal.
The agency that has recruited him knows what’s going on but hasn’t been able to prove anything. That’s why they’ve chosen Lee.
He’s all the most pure character in the film, with no vices, no faults.
His fellow contestants all have their downfalls, Roper (John Saxon) is a compulsive gambler, Williams (Jim Kelly) right before he leaves on the trip to Hong Kong assaults two police officers (they were asking for it) and steals their patrol car, and Parsons (Peter Archer) is a bit of a racist, violent tool.
The film is a basic riff on the spy films of the era, including the big everyone fights climax, while Lee hunts down Han.
While his showdown with Han is iconic, the whirling mirrors, the knives… it’s Lee’s showdown with Oharra (Robert Wall), Han’s lead henchman, who also has a history with Lee’s family, for that added touch of making it personal.
Lee choreographed all the fight scenes himself, and they are impressive, he fights the way he acts, effortlessly and gracefully.
He has an easy sense of humor and it comes through in his character.
Everyone in the film could be whittled down to a stereotype, especially Han, who steals a page from James Bond’s Blofeld, and wanders around in a scene stroking a cat in his arm.
Despite that, and despite the face that this film is 40 years old, it still engages and entertains, thanks, in no small part to Lee.
This was Lee’s final film, and was the first U.S. – Hong Kong co-pro. Consequently the film has become legendary, iconic in the annals of action films. And while it may not be the strongest written film ever, it is memorable for all those reasons.
Lalo Schifrin scores the film, this guy was everywhere in the 70s!
While the film doesn’t have tons of quick cuts and inserts of fists striking, or kicks connecting, most of the action sequences are framed wide which allows the viewer to see everything that is going on, and some of these moves are incredibly quick.
This is still a wonderfully fun movie, and may have to be added to my blu-ray collection in the near future. But for all that, a number of people claim that it is not Lee’s best film, though him using the nunchaku in the one sequence where is storming the fortress’ underground taking on all attackers, is pretty awesome!
I’ll say that I don’t know enough about him to make that judgement, though I believe I’ve seen all of his films.
On this one… I’ll take recommendations. What is your fave Bruce Lee film?