Friday, September 16, 2011

Enter The Dragon!

There's simply no denying out great this movie is. Bruce Lee's final full film showcases his amazing talents like no other movie. He dominates a rich cast, and for once is in a story which almost actually makes some sense. I finally got to see this flick in a widescreen format and that added a lot to the experience.

Now it seems like a no-brainer for a major studio to make a movie with Bruce Lee today. They'd all claim to recognize his talent, but back then no one wanted to touch the actor. His charisma evident from his brief tenure as Kato on The Green Hornet should've rocketed him to a bigger role, but it didn't. He was rejected here in the homeland and left to return to Hong Kong to find some measure of success and fame.

Teamed with John Saxon and Jim Kelly, Bruce Lee is the clear first among equals who battle the rogue priest Mister Han, the uber criminal who uses a tournament of martial arts champions to find talent for his criminal enterprises. It's a great general notion, successfully isolates our hand-to-hand experts on an island without guns and allows them to kick ass throughout the remainder of the film.

Saxon as the cool gambler running from the mob is excellent, and even better is Kelly as the hip black man escaping the officially sanctioned racism of his homeland. Lee though is the main focus of course, and with very few words he dominates every scene he's in, and offers up action sequences which have defined the form ever since.

The battle in the caves is arguably the finest fight sequence in all of film, a ballet of violence that weaves seamlessly though an exotic setting. Lee's fighting showing him to be resilient and clever as he constantly turns the weapons of his opponents back on them, demonstrating his greater proficiency at every turn.

The later battle in the mirrored room is peculiar and bizarre, like several scenes in this movie such as the final battle for Kelly's "Williams" when he falls among the opium-intoxicated women. The movie is not satisfied to show just fights, which it does do, it places those battles in specific contexts which add meaning to the outcomes. This is finally what elevates this movie above many others in the genre, the care with which specific aspects the story are presented.

If they had just wanted to put Bruce Lee in a bunch of fights, they could've done that, but they wanted to share a more compelling story and that makes Enter the Dragon a movie which can be watched and appreciated on multiple levels many times.

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  1. I got to see it at a sneak preview the week before Bruce's death. Went on to see it a total of 7 times that summer at two theaters. Bought the book, the great soundtrack album, all the magazines and have seen it a dozen times since (including in a ludicrous NON-pan and scan TV version where the camera stays focused on the middle of the screen and you actually MISS much of the fighting on the edges! LOL).

    That said, looking at it with more jaded eyes, it really is pretty sloppy around the edges and what's with the flashbacks within flashbacks? Bruce's screen presence is amazing even now though and the fight scenes flawless. The rapport between Kelly and Saxon makes me wish "The Deadly Three" had been able to do more films together.

  2. I think it's perhaps that the story made more sense than ever to me that I enjoyed the movie so this time. Certainly the widescreen made the action much clearer than I've ever seen before.

    The flashbacks gave the story a real odd texture that I enjoyed. I found this time, that Lee's double motivation to take on Han and his boys (the mission and the death of his sister) help up better for me. It's always seemed a bridge too far in the past, but since I remembered it this time, it didn't distract me.

    Rip Off

  3. Wow! This is one of my all-time favorite movies. I've seen it at least a dozen times. I have owned it on VHS, DVD and now Blu-Ray.

    I consider it one of the best super hero movies ever made. When you think about it, It has all the elements of a great comic-book super hero flick. A hero with almost super-human fighting skills facing impossible odds, a couple of sidekicks, and a maniacal "super" villain with a secret fortress and an army of henchmen. Plus, it features some of the best action scenes ever filmed. I mean, what more could you ask for?

    Jim Kelly even makes a reference to the movie's 4-color inspiration when he exclaims to Mr. Han... "Man, you come right out of a comic-book."


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