Long held to be the grand-daddy of all martial arts films, Enter the Dragon was recently re- released on DVD with the full treatment digital restoration, a few short scenes added back in, and interviews with all of the surviving cast, plus some extras about the film and a few interviews with Bruce Lee.
Most of you have probably already seen it, as it's thirty years old, but even though the film is almost absurdly steeped in the 70s, it still holds up remarkably well. Aside from dangerously wide lapels and some corny era-related dialogue (most notably delivered by Jim Kelly, the film's only African American). Enter the Dragon still delivers the same powerful punch it did three decades ago.
Of course, back then, it was merely the best martial arts film. Now, however, it is the chief testament to the grace and skill of Bruce Lee, and the only one of his four films that he had any sort of creative control over and you can see the difference between this and his Hong Kong films easily.
Lee does a Tony Danza and plays Mr. Lee, a shao-lin warrior who is recruited by a foreign government (it's assumed to be the English but is never explicitly stated) to infiltrate the island of a megalomaniac martial artist named Han (Kien Shih) who holds tournaments to find the best martial artists in the world. And because that's not enough motivation, it's also revealed that Han's bodyguard, Oharra (Robert Wall) killed Bruce's sister three years ago. So, like every Lee movie, there is a personal vendetta involved, and like every Lee film, Bruce's character asks forgiveness from his family for the deadly violence he is about to unleash. Along for the ride are gamblaholic Roper (John Saxon) and ghetto survivor Williams (Kelly).
The plot seems like a contrivance now, but that was before it was copied to death in the last three decades. It's actually a plausible and somewhat clever excuse to show people what they came to see Bruce Lee repeatedly kicking butt. From the opening fight scene (against Sammo Hung) through the fabulous finale where Lee single-handedly takes on half the island, the movie is a joy to watch on the physical level. It's the world's greatest martial artist at his peak, in a showcase perfectly designed for him. It was an ideal if unintentional shrine to the man.
Lee is not merely content to let us watch him bash people, though; some of his philosophy penetrates the movie, which is probably the real reason why Enter the Dragon has stayed so fresh so long. Lee talks about spirituality with a young charge and even gives us an amusing and illustrative lesson in his 'art of fighting without fighting' which is the credo of any real warrior. Lee also shows us the flip side; the show-offs and power-hungry who are only in it for the physical and material advantage. He takes care to show us how debased they are before dispatching them, however.
While Saxon and the rest of the cast are perfectly acceptable (Jim Kelly overdoes it a bit, but oddly that fits the film), Lee is terrific in this piece. Bruce Lee was a riveting performer and nowhere is that better demonstrated than in this movie. It's a testament to his legacy that three decades later, no one has come close to his skill, and people are still stealing ideas from him (Kill Bill, etc.). It gives one pause while watching Enter the Dragon to think of just what Bruce Lee could have accomplished had he lived.
I suppose those who don't like martial arts wouldn't care for this film, but I've seen it convert even unbelievers before. Lee is that good, and that charismatic, that you can't help but be drawn to him. Certainly his greatest film is worth checking out again on this spiffy new re- release. Even if you're not the biggest martial arts fan, how often do you get to check out a legend at the top of his game?
Enter the Dragon
Action / Crime
Enter the Dragon
Action / Crime
Enter the Dragon revolves around the three main characters. Lee, a man recruited by an agency to investigate a tournament hosted by Han, since they believe he has an Opium trade there. Roper and Williams are former army buddies since Vietnam and they enter the tournament due to different problems that they have. Roper is on the run from the Mafia due to his gambling debts, while Williams is harassed by racist police officers and defends himself from them and uses the car for his getaway. It is a deadly tournament that they will enter on an island. Lee's job is to get the other two out of there alive.
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December 4, 2012 at 2:19 am