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.