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52. DRAGON: The Bruce Lee story (action, 1993) A re-telling of the life
of legendary martial-arts star Bruce Lee (Jason Scott Lee). From his
brief childhood days in Hong Kong, to his days as a dishwasher,
martial-arts teacher and eventual cinema superstar in Hollywood.
Critique: The life and death of Bruce Lee has inspired many a film and documentaries since his death. Most of these accounts center around Lee's 'mysterious' death from a 'brain edema', never developing anything really new of interest, just speculations. Incredibly it took over 20 years for a film to finally put to rest the many theories and innuendo.
"Dragon" is by far the best of the legendary Lee story, not only for omitting the many death scenarios but also for giving us the closest account of the man. Apart from these welcome omissions, the film wouldn't have worked without Jason Scott Lee in the role. He gives a spirited, charismatic performance that captures the zest for life that Lee possessed. It's a long way from one of his first 'extra' roles as an Asian immigrant in the rather forgetful "Born in East L.A." (1988). Scott Lee is totally appealing here, taking on such a legendary figure and making us believe that Lee is truly up there once again on the screen.
The film's major theme of the "demon curse" Lee's family inherited, had a frighteningly real resonance when, after the movie premiered, Lee's eldest son Brandon (for whom the film is dedicated) was accidentally killed on the set of "The Crow". This would prove to be his breakout film, just the same way Lee's last film, "Enter the Dragon", made him a world wide superstar. This gives the film an added prophetic note that puts it in a category all its own.
Based on wife Linda Lee Cadwell's book, "Bruce Lee: the man only I knew", directed with skillful restraint by Rob Cohen (who also co-scripted). Randy Edelman created the unforgettable musical score (you'll be humming the tune long after you hear it).
QUOTES: Linda: "All these years later people still wonder about the way he died. I prefer to remember the way he lived."
This film as a stand alone kung fu movie would be worthy of your
attention, as it is very enjoyable and well made. The thing that makes
it special is Jason Scott Lee's portrayal of the legend that is Bruce
He successfully captures his mannerisms, attitude and even his fighting style, extremely convincingly (a truly remarkable feat of acting ability.)
Although dramatised to heighten your viewing pleasure, the story actually follows the events in Bruce Lee's life and shows us the man behind the martial arts, covering his inner turmoils and personal struggles as well as his famous physical ability.
A great movie, befitting the legend that is Bruce Lee.
Once you became a Bruce Lee addict and begin seeing and reading the numerous
different biographies and biopics, you're going to realise that DRAGON has
quite a bit of fiction in it - and in the bits you don't really expect it
to. For example, Lee approached Raymond Chow's Golden Harvest production
company to make a marital arts movie, not the other way round and Chow isn't
even the guy! Also, due to Lee's 'mysterious' death, the film also doesn't
really an idea of how its going to wrap it all up. Therefore, the film is
the perfect example of the word 'vivid'.
However, what makes Dragon the fine film that it is is that it decides to look at the two lesser-known aspects which dominated Lee's life - his long, ongoing 'battles' with an inner-demon and of course the racism of sixties America. These are managed and brought to the screen extremely well although to be fair they aren't particularly well developed.
The highlights would have to be the performances of Jason Scott Lee as Bruce and Lauren Holly as his devoted wife, Linda. They share a remarkable chemistry together and are certainly a credit to their subjects. This review probably hasn't made Dragon sound like a very good movie. Well if that's the case, then please think the opposite.
This movie was amazing. Before I saw this movie, I had an idea of who
Lee was. I knew he was one of the greatest martial arts masters of all
and I knew he was in a couple of movies. But, I had know idea about the
of man he was and the struggles he had to go through. He is, in my eyes,
amazing human being with an unimaginable amount of courage and a whole lot
of heart. This movie showed me that much. The score is also one of the
I have heard in my life. All in all, this movie is an inspiring take on a
legend's life. Great story, great music, great human being.... What more
I say? Amazing!
A solid 8/10
This is a great movie. Nice action scenes, nice soundtrack, nice photo...But
it's not a biography of the greatest fighter of all time: Bruce Lee. I am a
big fan of Bruce and I know his life from A to Z, and this is not what I saw
in that movie. I could tell all the mistakes I saw in the movie but here's
just a few: In the movie: he is a unique child Reality: He had one brother
and two sisters and he didn't live with his father only, he had his mother.
He didn't leave Hong-Kong because of the cops (what the?...) he left because
he wanted to be famous. And please! What is that story of the ghost from the
depts of hell?!?!?
No, if you want to make a great action movie, good, go ahead, the right way to do it. But if you want to make a bio of a true legend, please tell the true story.
The story told in the movie is really excellent and entertaining.
However it feels more like a story based on the life of Bruce Lee
rather then an actual biopic of his life.
Jason Scott Lee perfectly plays Kung Fu legend Bruce Lee. Not only the way he plays Lee is impressive but also his fighting skills.
The music by Randy Edelman was also surprising good.
There are way too many fictitious and untrue things added in the movie to be considered a fair biography. But does it really matter for the movie? It's like "Ed Wood" that was also filled with altered things and false truths but still it was a movie that told us the story of an unique character and what drove him. "Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story" isn't much different in that way. OK it's not completely fair to compare this movie to "Ed Wood" since that was a far superior movie to "Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story" (what a horrible title by the way).
The fight sequence are probably the best thing about the movie and they were highly entertaining, although very hard to believe that they actually really happened that way.
It's a good entertaining movie but if you want to get to know more about Bruce Lee this isn't the best material for you to start with.
Very Good But Horribly Inaccurate Account Of His Life
If you are watching this as someone who has no knowledge of Bruce Lee's life then this is a good fun action film but someone who knows the history and the story of his life may be dissapointed as this is not at all accurate. And knowing Bey Logan, he must cringe watching this. The film depicts Bruce's early childhood in Hong Kong, his teenage years in the US right way through to his eventual death in 1973. The element that I think drags this film down the most is the mythological side of it, if it had just been a realistic account of his life without the myths and demons, it would have faired much better. There are many innacurate scenes and occurences in this film which understandably makes the film more exciting for mainstream audiences but as a Bruce fan myself i wish they would have stuck to what actually happened. I wish there were more scenes where Bruce was on set of one of his films, like Way Of The Dragon or Fist Of Fury. There could have been more scenes with Bruce with Yip Man or Brandon. There could have been scenes of Bruce being challenged on the street in his infamous street fights, the episode of the green hornet they portrayed i don't think was an actual episode. And Bruce was not injured by the fighter at the martial arts challenge in Chinatown it was when he was weightlifting and pulled his back out. But the fight scenes are well choreographed.
Jason Scott Lee has got his portrayal of the man spot on, he brings the right amount emotion and power to the role, he's clearly done his research on Bruce's mannerism's and got himself in shape for the role as well as training for the fight scenes. Its hard to imagine anyone else who could have played the role, maybe Jet Li who at the time the film was made was 30 and roughly the right age to play Bruce, but Jet spoke very little English. Lauren Holly is equally as good in her role as Linda. The strong portrayals are in many ways successful because of the on set help of the real Linda and Shannon(who makes a cameo as a singer). The music is perhaps the film's strongest part, somehow the main score seems to catch the right emotion of Bruce's death and Brandon's death in 1993. I like the way the film captures the aura of Bruce Lee.
There will indeed never be another Bruce Lee. I find it fascinating to imagine what Bruce would have done if he had lived, the 80's and 90's would have been very different if Arnie, Stallone, Wiilis, Seagal and Van Damme had Bruce to compete with, Bruce is sometimes critcised for being a bad actor, but i disagree, if anyone has seen his episodes of `Longstreet' or `Marlowe' they will see that Bruce could convincingly carry a dramatic scene given the right script and no dubbing and he oozed charisma, and he showed glimpses of good acting in Enter The Dragon.
Being a Bruce fan i kind of wish that Jet Li would do the films that bruce did or was planning on doing, Jet's early work in Honk Kong like the Shaolin Temple or more recent stuff like Fist Of Legend(remake of Fist Of Fury) and Once Upon A Time In China was very promising and it seemed he was the successor to Bruce but instead now he's doing crap in Hollywood with DMX and Jason Statham. Strangely the mediocre Lethal Weapon 4 is Jet's best Hollywood film, Maybe Jet should do a project with John Woo, it would be interesting and they'd probably get the best out of each other.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Spoilers, clichés and big dumb white guys abound.
Bruce Lee was an artisan, an innovator, an indomitable warrior, a genius. Inspiring many to create tributes to him, it unfortunately does not follow that those inspired to create these tributes are creative enough or qualified enough to do those tributes justice. Such is the case with Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story.
Not really a story about Bruce Lee, more the story of an invented character from the Cliché Handbook of Action Film Heroes (Body-Oil Edition). And not so much a "tribute" as a "gratuitous insult"; excepting Jason Scott Lee's physical prowess and the overwhelming hotness of Lauren Holly, the film boasted absolutely no redeeming qualities. And lots of body-oil.
The dramatic contrivance of the "po-boy-immigrates-and-makes-good" was bad enough, even if it were true (which it is not) but then, in a film where "assault and battery" assumes a form of high art in the hands of the film's protagonist, we viewers are summarily assaulted and battered by the artlessness of the film-makers who opted for cliché over substance at every turn.
In Lee's first fight at the prom, he conveniently loses his shirt (a la Vintage Kirk) beneath the shirt, judiciously body-oiled like a seal at a massage parlor, big dumb white sailors not so much being beaten up by him as sliding off his pecs like penguins and hitting their heads on the floor.
The gym scene, and more big dumb white guys (and a token black guy) assault Lee for no reason remember that these were simple bygone days, when big dumb white guys were unaware that Every Asian Person Knows Kung Fu.
Clichés for breakfast, lunch and dinner: We've got the mother who doesn't approve, the searing hot white chick love interest, the battered loft converted into the martial arts school, the racism, the idiot antagonists attacking the hero with meat cleavers (which they never think to THROW at him), the kung fu veterans ordering Bruce to stop teaching or else - ! We've got the obligatory husband & wife confrontation (once again the wife bitching as her husband achieves a fame that she can only ride the coat-tails of: "I don't know who you ARE anymore!" how about "the guy who keeps you wealthy and your social status high"?). Even if many of these aspects were marginally accurate (such as his wife truly being the ideal 70s stunner), the storyline unfolded in such a PG-13 paint-by-numbers format that one couldn't help but question the veracity of its dramatic elements.
Then there's the goofy Black Knight character that haunts Bruce's dreams, proving beyond a doubt that the film-makers were higher than the publicist who engineered Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction". Besides the fact that this was an insulting dramatic metaphor for the mystery surrounding Lee's untimely demise, how dare the film-makers presume that this metaphysical nonsense in any way rationalizes, palliates or absolves the misfortune of Bruce's passing?
Enter the Bad Guy combatant we can tell he's the Bad Guy on accounta his scowl and ominous theme music, and his body-oil is a whole inch thicker - and Bruce's debilitating cliché-defeat at his hands, achieved by CHEATING on the Bad Guy's part, of course. It's all true. Hollywood tells us so.
Then we are treated to the obligatory montage of the Hero regaining his prowess through his Iron Will and jump-cut editing all due to his HOT WIFE'S pep talk - yes, if it weren't for bony, bossy Linda Lee, we'd never have Jeet Kune Do or Enter The Dragon.
Bruce's book, The Tao of Jeet Kune Do, was published posthumously but in this film, he miraculously receives a copy while recovering from his bogus back injury a miracle only Hollywood could achieve. We cannot even disregard the fallacies of this movie and focus on the broad strokes to glean Bruce's life story, for those broad strokes themselves are indiscernibly shrouded in misinformation.
Much like Capricorn One, another film which insulted the viewer from frame one to conclusion, with misinformation and egregious stupidity sprinkled so liberally throughout its makeup that one could not find any one point to logically start unraveling the threads of idiocy, Dragon bludgeons viewers with the unsubtle thematic gist that we are all obviously congenital idiots for watching it in the first place.
One such example of just how IGNINT the film-makers believe us to be is the scene in which we are made privy to the methods on how to film a movie, with the fight scene on the "last day of filming on The Big Boss". With just ONE tripod-mounted camera, they captured no less than 43 camera angles, and also captured slow motion shots without once loading different-speed film! Then, apparently you have to open the clapper and rip the film out and throw it on the ground in order to develop it, which is what Bruce does. Very informative! And all true, of course. Hollywood tells us so.
It seems ironic that these film-makers, who attempted to portray a pioneer who fought to elevate the martial arts film above that of B-Movie schlock, unwittingly created B-Movie schlock in the process. Though their intentions may have started out sincere (which I doubt), what is left on the screen is a rancid marketing vehicle cashing in on Bruce's fame, rather than what might have been a much more interesting, entertaining - AND THEREFORE even more commercially-successful - exploration of Lee's life and times, adversities and triumphs.
We can only hope that one day there will be a more reverent, less body-oiled, more factual movie to celebrate the life and achievements of The Little Dragon.
(Movie Maniacs, visit: www.poffysmoviemania.com)
I really liked Jason Scott Lee's portrayal of Bruce Lee, but I noticed
inaccuracies in the story. If I had not seen the AMC special on Lee last
year, I would not have a problem.
-according to Linda Lee, Bruce was not hurt when competing for the right to teach whoever he wanted to. He hurt himself when he didn't stretch properly for a workout in 1970. That was the big inaccuracy
-Bruce auditioned for another role in early 1965 before the role of Kato was offered to him.
- other roles he took in America were completely ignored: "Marlowe", his appearances on "Longstreet", etc...the movie went right from 1967 to 1972 within a minute
If you want to see a really good special on Lee, as well as see lost footage from a project that was butchered after he died, check out the AMC documentary.
Yes, detractors, I have heard that many of the incidents in Linda's biography of Bruce are apocryphal, yet this is a great tribute to the legend. It shows what is often missed in lesser biographies of Lee: his great spirituality. The movie was never intended to be pure fact, in honor of Bruce, it incorporates the Chinese mysticism that was part of his reality. It opens with the small Bruce already being chased by the demon that was to destroy so much of his family. His father sends him to America, in part, to hide him from the demon. It follows his education and eventual marriage to his wife Linda. Meritoriously, it shows Lee fighting to the death to be allowed to teach non-Chinese. His philosophy is here, the famous comparison to water: That you should become like the nature of water when you fight, changing, flowing and adapting to your opponent and eschewing fixed stances and forms as straight-jackets that wreck the free dance like nature of physical combat. What I love about this movie is what you see others above me decry: its spirituality. Yes, for those empiricists who believe that the 12% of the light they can see from the sun contains all of the known universe's secrets, you will laugh also. For those who think the other 88%, that we cannot see, may hold unknowns that we shouldn't rule out with typical humanistic hubris.
The spiritual part of Lee's life, the tragedy that befell Brandon and others of his family, Cohen integrates this into the story. The demon appears in America soon after Lee gets settled in. For me, Jason Scott Lee effects a remarkable transformation into the likeness of Bruce. Admittedly, he is much taller and wider but he mimics Bruce's cat like noises and stances very well. My favorite scene is the last one where Bruce mounts the high wall, all the warriors stop their Katas and salute the legend. The other feature is the one also attacked: the crippling back injury. This is here to show you the other often unknown trait of Lee's: his legendary training and endurance of pain forging himself into the ultimate warrior. The movie is not all surface, it addresses the racism towards Chinese both in the film world and everyday American culture (the eternal wait for the table). Lee is idealized but he is shown losing his temper and driving his family away with his eternal quest to become a film star. We see his creation 'Kung Fu' put on television with an American actor rather than Lee.
The fights are well staged and Jason's physique shows you the work he put into honoring Bruce with his role. The racism is present and dealt with but it never overcomes the narrative: Cohen shows Bruce viewing it as just another obstacle he has to overcome. It is a fitting tribute for it shows the Dragon's spirituality, his singular determination and his overcoming of all the impediments in his way. I liked Scott Lee in Soldier but he is even better here in a far more demanding role. It is not an easy thing to portray a legend, Jason Scott Lee renders him as a deeply spiritual, loving warrior. When you last see that iconic image of the sun behind Lee, as all the warriors bow, he was so much more than a martial artist. His spirit is what this film captures, his wish to train others to become fearless warriors, to overcome prejudice and preconceptions of others different from ourselves, and, above all, his transcending to become not just the hero of China but the legend of the world's. I applaud Jason Scott Lee for the courage to take a role that could have led to great danger and disgrace if he had bungled it. He acquits himself masterfully, I think the Dragon would have loved it. His spirit lives on inside all of us who admire the great master. As a philosopher, I often look upon his poster to remind me that we are all warriors in this life. A Good Movie. Q.E.D.
"When Life Gives You Obstacles You Must Summon The Courage And Walk On." Bruce Lee
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