Set against the backdrop of 1960s San Francisco, BIRTH OF THE DRAGON is a modern take on the classic movies that Bruce Lee was known for. It takes its inspiration from the epic and still controversial showdown between an up-and-coming Bruce Lee and kung fu master Wong Jack Man - a battle that gave birth to a legend.
In 1964, a young Bruce Lee owns and operates a San Francisco Kung Fu Academy, specializing in the Chinese martial art Wing Chun. Lee cares for his students, providing advice, roles as extras in his upcoming projects, and defending them from the gangs of Chinatown. One of Lee's students, Steve McKee, spars with Lee while fighting in anger, causing Lee to counter and embarrass him. McKee and Vinnie Wei work for the latter's mother's laundry business, where they find out that master Wong Jack Man is on a pilgrimage from China to observe the Kung Fu scene in the United States. While carrying out a delivery to the China Gate restaurant, McKee falls for an employee, Xiulan, who is forbidden to communicate with anyone on the outside. One night, McKee sneaks over to the restaurant to give her a grammar book, teaching her fellow roommates basic English..
The film's portrayal of Wong Jack Man contains numerous factual errors. The biggest being that he was not a Shaolin monk and he didn't come to San Francisco as penance for nearly killing a man in a duel. Also he didn't return to China afterwards since he continued to teach martial arts in the Fort Mason Center of San Francisco until he retired in 2005. See more »
You're a great advertisement for our training.
[telling a former student he sees badly beaten in an alley way]
[he says weakly]
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A few of the job titles in the scrolling credits such as "stunt coordinator" and "set designer" change back and forth from English to Chinese. See more »
I was at first put off by the trailers of the film because the street alley scene and certain dialogue lines seemed cheesy without context, however in the progression of the full film they play their part just fine.
In the idea that the "birth of the dragon" was the transition from Bruce Lee's generic focus of Kung Fu and other martial arts into the consolidated uniform art of Jeet Kune Do, this movie highlighted the event that sparked that transition in an entertaining way. Combining some historical information with an enticing cinematic focus, intertwined with some fictional inclusions of characters and story for the sake of making it an entertainment film rather than direct informational documentary, I was satisfied overall with the viewing and find that it paid decent homage to the memory of Bruce Lee by showing a human element of imperfection during the beginning of his career.
Allowing us to see into the information of his time before becoming a cultural icon was refreshing, and influenced me to read into Lee's history during those years and before. Again, the film does include uses of fictional elements in order to help propel the story in a standard acceptable for entertaining viewership, and as such does not convey an entirely truthful set of events, only a summary with cinematic filler.
I recommend seeing this film to see what you think of it, and afterwards reading about the events around the conflict between Bruce Lee and Wong Jack Man yourself, as there are some interesting details to be found.
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