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Fists Of Fury was the second best of the Lee films. (Chinese Connection was
tops). The speed, action and excitement in the film was unprecedented.
The only thing that came close were the episodes of the Green Hornet and
they were Lee also. He was the epitome of being physically fit and had
screen presence like no action star before him. His fitness level and
physical capabilities are qualities that some action stars have today, but
at the time there was no one like him. Fists of Fury had a good story and
the acting was good. In the last almost thirty years, you will be able to
find films that are equivalent to the technical and production measures of
this film, but none as good due to the fact that this was the first.
After trying to make a name in Hollywood with the TV series "Green
Hornet" with mixed results, young actor and martial artist Bruce Lee
traveled back to Hong Kong where his popularity as Kato was very high,
there met Raymond Chow and received the chance to star a film about
martial arts. "Tang Shan Da Xiong", or "The Big Boss" (known in the
U.S. as "Fists of Fury"), was the final result and the movie that
started Lee's career and his way to becoming a legend of celluloid.
"The Big Boss" is about a young Chinese man named Cheng Chao-an (Bruce Lee) who travels to Thailand looking for a job. Living with his distant cousins, he finds a job in the ice factory where his cousins work and soon he finds a family in them, developing a close friendship with Hsiu Chien (James Tien) and a big affection for Chow Mei (Maria Yi). Although he is a skilled fighter Cheng sworn an Oath of non-violence to his mother, promising that he would not be a get in fights. However, things get complicated when two of his cousins disappear and is discovered that the ice factory has a dark secret. Cheng will have to break his Oath in order to unveil the mystery behind the disappearance of his new family.
Directed by Wei Lo (who would also discover Jackie Chan), "The Big Boss" was a breath of fresh air to martial arts films as it showed a flawed hero in a modern setting. The story (by Wei Lo and Bruce Lee) is very well developed and filled with suspense and action, and in a bold move for an action film, the main character remains almost inactive for the first half as Cheng must avoid violence due to his oath. The film not only launched Lee's career to stratosphere, it influenced his own film-making's style and the way future martial arts movies were done.
Wei Lo's usually restrained style was also influenced by his young actor's abilities, "The Big Boss" can be seen as his transition to a more explosive way of film-making that would be completed in his next Lee's film ("Fist of Fury") and the subsequent Jackie Chan's films. The natural and raw look of the film added to the high dose of graphic violence (it is probably the goriest film in Lee's career) give the movie a harsh, gritty realism that adds to its charm.
As many have already said (and will continue saying without a doubt), Lee was a very charming actor whose presence filled the screen and owned it completely. That statement is proved here as we see him not as a killing machine, but as a common man who just wants to live peacefully, giving us many scenes of Cheng enjoying his new found family and struggling with his own vices. Lee's performance is very natural although one could say that he was basically playing himself. The rest of the cast ranges from average to OK, with James Tien, Quin Lee and Malalene being the best among them. However, it's fair to notice that the poor dubbing, typical of movies of the era makes a bit difficult to judge them fairly.
"The Big Boss" is considered among the weakest of Lee's films and not without a reason. Those accustomed to constant action scenes will feel it is slow due to the film's pacing and the way the story is built. The acting, as written above, is not very good and only Lee and Tien's performances are of constantly quality. And finally, Wei Lo's inclusion of some silly comedic effects feels terribly out of pace in an otherwise dark and gritty action film.
To summarize, "Tang Shan Da Xiong", or "The Big Boss", is a terrific film on its own right, and together with "Fist of Fury" ("The Chinese Connection") and "Enter the Dragon", a basic film to understand Lee's career and the development of martial arts films during the 70s. It may not be a classic as the films mentioned, but this was just the beginning of the legendary Bruce Lee. 7/10
Throughout this film you see a constrained Bruce Lee. Lo Wei is deliberately holding him back in order to introduce him to audiences and to save the best of his fighting for the second film. What we see here is a humane Bruce Lee who has feelings, a sense of humour, enjoys sex and is in control of his temper. He strikes up a good friendship with Shu Sheng who life is eventually claimed by the antagonists. When Bruce witnesses the mistreatment of his family in the workplace, he still holds back. Until...they break his necklace. At that moment, he explodes into action with centrifugal force, picking off each opponent with pin-point accurate kicks. It is a work of art that is akin to 'Samson and Delilah'.
After years of trying to get into Hollywood, Bruce Lee returned to Hong Kong and began his efforts with this low-budget martial-arts thriller. The result - an Asian box-office smash which made Lee an overnight sensation in the East. Whilst its not a great film or Lee's best work, it is an definite film classic that really opened the door for the martial-arts genre, as well as kicking off Lee's career. The story sees Lee coming to work in Banghok with his cousins in an ice factory, where he soon discovers sinister operations taking place under the thumb of the title villain. Like Lee's other films, the action builds up through the film to impressively staged fight scenes, all topped by a dramatic, all-out climatic bout between Lee and the Big Boss. Breakthrough stuff but the best (and the West) was yet to come.
The first of the four Bruce Lee starring movies[ well, five, if you
count Game Of Death]is technically the weakest. However, it's easy to
see how it caused such a stir. Unlike most martial arts movies of the
time, the film was set in the present day and attempted things like
characterisation and even realism. These touches sometimes seem crude
and even laughable now [for instance, check out the scene when the
other workers of the factory are waiting for Lee to return, with it's
exaggurated 'passing the time' actions]but when the film came out, it
was a major step forward.
Even more daringly, the film has less fighting, with the fights being structured around the plot rather than the other way round, and bravest of all, the star of the film does not go into action into half way through. Instead, it cleverly builds suspense by having Lee as a guy who has sworn not to fight, and when he eventually cuts loose the result is exhilarating. However, it's obvious that none of Lee's opponents are a match for him and only the sequence when he battles a group of heavies in and around an ice factory really stands out. The clumsiness of much of the action [Lee was only allowed to choreograph the ice factory scene]is almost redeemed by the huge amount of gore and brutality.
Despite it's shoddy aspects, the film does have an odd power,especially towards the end. Lee's character is a very flawed hero who for a while badly strays from goodness and there is a sense that killing all the bad guys will not bring him redemption. In all three of Lee's Hong Kong films, violence never really solves things, it just makes things worse. Maybe that is why Lee's dated, sometimes awkward films are still watched again and again while many other films of the same time and genre have faded into obscurity. Well, that and Lee.
Tang Shan Da Xiong/The Big Boss(1971) is of all the Bruce Lee movies the
most censored and cut because of some scenes of graphic violence. The
violence in its uncut form seems to be on the level of the Street Fighter
flicks with Sonny Cheiba. Bruce Lee doesn't show off his fighting skills
until mid way through the film. What a great fighting performance Bruce Lee
gives the viewer when he beats up the big boss's factory workers.
Interestingly, the film has a couple of erotic scenes that are unusual for a
Kung Fu movie. Both these scenes were either trimmed or cut from the
picture. Bruce Lee's films would get less bloody by the time he did Enter
the Dragon(1973). Mr. Vampire actor, Ching Ying Lam has a small part as the
cousin of Cheng Chao An. Film that brought Bruce Lee international stardom
even though the film was not very good. For a Kung Fu flick Bruce Lee is
unable to show his full ability as a martial artist due to the filmmakers
concern about his appearence in film. Bruce Lee would not fully utilized
his excellent skills until the fight sequence at the Japanese martial arts
school in Jing Wu Men(1972)/The Chinese Connection.
The Big Boss(1971) is noted for the infamous scene cut from the film of Bruce Lee spitting a man's head in half with a saw. A scene that has been lost scene since probably the film's debut in Hong Kong theatres. Just as infamous as the lost Pirhana scene of Cannibal Holocaust or the lost eye sucking scene from Full Contact. This sequence is definitely a scene that may have influenced similar sequences in The Streetfighter(1974). This one scene makes The Big Boss(1971) a must find in its fully uncut and uncensored form. Bruce Lee does well for what little material he had to work with. One gory sequence that was trimmed for the film's US release was the scene where Cheng sticks his fingers deep into the main villain's torso. It would be great if someone would find elements from The Big Boss(1971) in order to put together the longest print possible. The Hong Kong version is superior to the badly cut and badly dubbed American version. Its the version that I recommand the most for Bruce Lee admirers and fans.
"The Big Boss" (1971) was beloved Bruce Lee's famous breakthrough film. Script is not a very ingenious one and some of the lines are so naive I had no idea should I laugh or cry. Plot is really just a silly excuse to arrange different fight situations. What I'm saying is this is certainly not an outstanding masterpiece and if you're expecting to find something deep and profound from here I can assure you'll be very disappointed. On the other hand, if you want to see speedy, amusing and stylish violence without a single gunshot and legendary Bruce Lee kicking ass in a most entertaining fight sequences this is definitely your flick. I am not a diehard-fan of Bruce Lee but I do love good Asian action movies and although "The Big Boss" was a rather clumsy old kung-fu classic I think it was quite an enjoyable film to watch. In a nutshell: I liked it.
After seeing and admiring Enter The Dragon, I knew Bruce Lee wasn't just a name but a man with remarkable skills. Better than Jackie Chan and Jet Li. I figured the next Bruce Lee movies I'd see would have lousy plots but good action. That's how every Jackie Chan movie goes. Well, I was thrown a curveball. Fists of Fury has a very cool plot. It involves a company that smuggles heroin in blocks of ice and does away with employees who find out. An action movie with a plot. It's almost unheard of. The action is pretty good too. I'm always afraid when starting out a bruce lee movie that because it is so dated, the action will seem fake. Up until Lee starts fighting it ussually does. But once the man gets into it, the intensity is unquestionable. This movie was not quite as cool as Enter The Dragon, but it was very good. Much better than I would have ever thought. Its got a better plot than any of Chan's films and I've seen them all. Lucky me. At least Lee doesn't do corny humor. This guy is the real deal and this movie is dam good.
Sometimes a genre's "defining films" are some of the most unusual. In
Bruce Lee's debut, Lo Wei's uncharacteristically interesting directing
takes us to moody, almost giallo-esque nooks and crannies (the "red
room scene" is outstanding), and some of the violence goes way beyond
the boundaries of good taste and into horror/splatter territory as
well. There's a sleazy sexist exploitation vibe I could do without
(that, ironically enough, wouldn't be carried over into the cheaper
mid/late 70s films Bruce Lee inspired), but it's fairly negligible.
Some people might criticize the movie for being "slow," but it has a deliberate, meaningful narrative arc that gives emotional value to the action that does occur. Give me this sort of pacing over this five-cuts-a-second MTV style movies have had since the 90s any day.
Well, Bruce Lee did it: he finally hit stardom with one of the coolest
movies that I've ever seen. "Tang shan da xiong" (called "Fists of
Fury" in the US) has him going to work in an ice factory after having
taken a vow not to fight. But when he discovers slimy deals at the
factory, he realizes that he has no other choice.
As one might expect, the whole movie is an excuse to show off Bruce Lee's moves, and they do a great job with it. There's not much in the way of an actual plot here: they get straight down to the martial arts, and I shouldn't even have to tell you what sorts of things he does.
All in all, this movie will remain a classic for all time. These sorts of flicks make life worth living. You're sure to love it.
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