Have you ever… seen Bruce Lee’s films?

Have you ever is a look back at anything you might have missed from the pop culture world.

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I was planning on doing one post on Enter the Dragon but then I remembered the scene in Game of Death where Bruce is wearing the yellow jumpsuit. There was no way I could limit myself to just one film so I’m going to summarise them all in this one post.

I saw all the Bruce Lee films a long time ago but never fully appreciated them and was sort of put off by the noises and the bad acting but more recently I have gone back and realised just how great they are. He was one hell of a fighter and since starting learning kung fu myself I can really appreciate what he was doing.

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I’ll start chronologically. The Big Boss was Bruce’s first proper film, having already been in the TV series The Green Hornet and few smaller films, and revolves around his character finding work at a local factory where he soon discovers some shady dealings going on behind the scenes. As a huge tease, his character has sworn an oath of pacifism so he doesn’t even fight until about halfway through the film – but it just makes it all the more awesome when he finally does. There’s not much to say about this film really – it’s a good film and there’s nothing wrong with it at all but it’s overshadowed by the better films that come afterwards.

Now I’m pretty sure Fist of Fury came next. But having checked Wikipedia, the plot seems suspiciously similar to The Big Boss. It seems there is a huge confusion between the original Chinese release and the US version. I won’t embarrass myself by reviewing the same one twice so I’ll leave it in your hands to work out.

Way of the Dragon came next. Pretty standard stuff here. Tang (Bruce) is recruited to defend a restaurant in Rome from gangsters. When it appears that Tang is far too skilled, the gangsters send in their own expert, played by Chuck Norris – the then world Karate champion. Apparently Bruce, who was friends with Chuck, called him up and said “I want you to be in one of my films, and I want to fight you, and I’m going to win”. Pretty good on the whole, the fight at the end is great and there’s nothing wrong with the rest.

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The upside of not reviewing Fist of Fury is it means I can review Enter the Dragon sooner. There’s reason that this is one of the best received kung fu films ever. It was Bruce’s first American produced film and he went into it with the aim of creating his magnum opus. Bruce is recruited to infiltrate a martial art tournament and assassinate the rogue shaolin monk who runs it. The fighting is phenomenal and throughout Bruce is just the epitome of cool. Later on, as the action intensifies, there is a great scene as Bruce is working his way through a subterranean base fighting off countless assailants all with progressively more deadly weapons. This film also results in the iconic image of Bruce with the three cuts across his stomach. All in all, awesome film and it’s definitely worth watching even if you aren’t really interested in kung fu films.

Lastly, Game of Death. As I said, this is the film that stopped me writing just about Enter the Dragon. The film as a whole is about 75% okay and 25% fantastic. This is because Bruce, mid-filming, abandoned the project temporarily to go and film Enter the Dragon but tragically died before he could finish it. This has resulted in a few scenes being finished. The film was then pieced together quite a few years later with new scenes being filmed to fill in the gaps. The 75% is predictably the new scenes primarily and the 25% is the 20ish minute long fight scene that Bruce had finished. The film gets around his death by starting the film as a film star who gets shot in the face and has plastic surgery, coming out of the hospital looking like Bruce Lee. Seamless. I’ll just comment on the final fight because it is by far the highlight of the film. Bruce, now wearing his iconic yellow jumpsuit, makes his way up a building fighting the almost boss-like characters on each floor. One fight he wields a rapier, another a pair of nunchuks and the third he fights bare-fisted against 7 foot 2 Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Of all the films, it’s not as good as Enter the Dragon but definitely worth a watch.

So apart from the slight mixup with Fist of Fury, that is it for the main bulk of Bruce Lees films. It’s such a shame that he died so young, I’m sure he would have gone on to even greater things.
If you’ve already seen all of these films, why not check out some Jackie Chan films? He’s also great!
Rush Hour

Rumble in the Bronx

Drunken Master