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Game of Death (1978)
Like it or not... this is game of death
My how this final film of Bruce Lee's has received many mixed reviews! Oddly enough, this is the only film of Lee's to have not had a title change during its viewing in the states. Game of Death is widely remembered for Bruce Lee's death on the set. From what he died of is a mystery and another topic all together. Moving on to the film... Like Enter the Dragon before it, Game of Death was an American made film with a higher budget than Lee's previous films. The plot focuses on Bruce playing a movie star (ironically) who is being tempted by mob bosses to participate in crooked deals. Of course Bruce refuses to do so and a result he is threatened along with his girlfriend. You can almost guess the rest of the plot from there. Notice I said 'almost', because the final half-hour of this movie is a big turning point from the overall plot. The game of death is a tower in which a fighter must compete to the top by winning against an opponent in each floor of the 5-level tower. This footage features non-stop kung fu till the very end of the film. So why the mixed reviews? Well, everything up to the last third of the movie is not relevant to the tower scene. This is not to say a big portion of Game of Death is boring, it just doesn't add much in terms of character development. Also, since Bruce died before it's completion, some Game of Death scenes featured Bruce Lee look-a-likes to compensate for uncompleted footage. While I can understand these complaints, what else did the producers have to work with? As for the good, Game of Death still entertains. Even if you decide that this film doesn't interest you, at least forward to the last 30-40 minutes to see some excellent choreographed fights along with who Bruce goes up against in the final fight scene. Note: the UK and Hong Kong Game of Death editions have restored a good portion of footage that was removed from the U.S. version because of time constraint.
Enter the Dragon (1973)
Bruce Lee's American claim to fame
Let me start off by saying that Enter the Dragon is a great film for anyone interested in a pure tournament fighter's story as well as anyone who wants to see Bruce Lee in his American-made master piece. Seriously, this film has pure tournament fighting (no effects attached) at its best. All of the main characters do their own martial arts. As for the plot and character personas, these elements were somewhat later used in a 1995 martial arts film based on a video game but I will let the readers figure that one out. Moving on, the plot is not only believable but pretty realistic in almost every sense. Jim 'black belt jones' Kelly makes his debut in Enter the Dragon. His character brings some humor to the film so-to-say. Even if you are not big on Bruce Lee or martial arts in general, you owe it to yourself to check this movie out for the sheer genuineness of a tournament fighting flick with a good story.
Meng long guo jiang (1972)
a.k.a. 'Way of the Dragon'
My goodness, how these U.S. titles of Hong Kong films get tossed around! Most of you probably know this film to be titled 'Return of the Dragon'. Make no mistake though; this is NOT a sequel to Enter the Dragon. This was filmed a year or two before Enter the Dragon and has nothing to do with Enter the Dragon's premise. Moving on, this is the famous movie in which Bruce Lee faces off against Chuck Norris in his (Chuck's) first and probably only role as a villain. Oddly enough, Norris doesn't appear until well into the last third of the movie. The overall film while only giving away some minor spoilers is that Bruce Lee is asked to go to Rome Italy to help restaurant employees fend of mobsters. Chuck Norris is sent to defeat Bruce should the mobsters fail. As one might guess the plot is a bit predictable though Way of the Dragon still entertains. The fight scenes are fewer than Fist of Fury but still good none the less. The scene with Bruce using two nunchukus is very impressive. Of course, most will view this film for the final segment of Bruce vs. Chuck and in all honesty, even if someone doesn't care too much for Way of the Dragon they will still get a kick (no pun intended) out of the nunchukus scene along with the Chuck Norris battle. Note for first time viewers: Way of the Dragon starts off a bit slow and silly but eventually becomes action packed and serious.
Jing wu men (1972)
a.k.a. 'Fist of Fury' not to be confused with Big Boss
Bruce Lee was before my time though I became a fan of his films exactly 30 years after his death. Ironic, isn't it. This movie is a good start for anyone curious to see either martial arts, Bruce Lee, or both. While the plot is reasonable, it isn't as in depth as Lee's higher budget films from 1973 (I will discuss those in another review). Since I'm not allowed to give spoilers, let me just say that this film overall has plenty of realistic martial arts action as Bruce choreographed all of his fight scenes. Also, the little tune sung during the title sequence is rather catchy. I found myself rewinding the DVD just to hear the tune again. Fist of Fury or Chinese Connection (these U.S. title changes are ridiculous) as I said earlier is a good place to start if you are new to Bruce Lee. If you can get past the English dubbing, you are sure to enjoy.
The Sum of All Fears (2002)
the beginning of the Jack Ryan series
For those of you who have seen The Jack Ryan films or read the Tom Clancy novels (Hunt For Red October, Patriot Games, Clear Present Danger) you would likely be familiar with the character of Jack Ryan. For those of you who have not, The Sum of All Fears is chronologically the first in the Jack Ryan novel/films. To some degree, I liked this movie. I mostly don't care for Ben Affleck though he did not do a bad job in this one. I won't spoil the plot for anyone who has not seen this though I will say if you have read the book 'sum of all fears' than don't expect the film to follow the book accurately because it doesnot. Anyway, while the movie held my interest for the most part, I was very perplexed by an event in the film that falls out of line chronologically with the Jack Ryan series. Since I did not check the "contains spoilers" box, I am obligated to not reveal which scene I am referring to. So I will just say that since the sum of all fears is supposed to be the first in the series, this one scene that I am referring to led me to believe that the producers of the film overlooked a major script flaw. Despite that, I found the movie to be interesting though not quite as good the other Jack Ryan films.