Fresh off the successes of his first two films Fists Of Fury and The Chinese Connection, Bruce Lee comes up with his most ambitious work to date. Enlisting himself as writer and director as well as getting the starring role, Lee unveils The Way Of The Dragon. It wasnít released in the United States until later after Leeís US breakthrough, Enter The Dragon. When it was released it was with the title ďReturn Of The Dragon.Ē In his third film, Lee keeps pushing the martial arts genre to the limit, but the film gets hampered due to a weak storyline and some bad acting. Still, the film redeems itself thanks again to the great fight scenes, which manage to save this somewhat dull film.The story is pretty simple. Tang Lung (Lee) is a Hong Kong country boy who arrives to Rome, Italy to help his friend Chang (Nora Miao) and her uncle with the restaurant, which has been constantly bullied by Italian mobsters who want to force them to sell the restaurant. Tang at first acts ignorant because he doesnít know how to help, but then he steps to the rescue and manages to take the trash out, but things go for a twist, as they hire three martial artists to go and kick his ass, so Tang must now go again in defense of his friends and the restaurant.
"Somewhat Dull But Still Manages To Kick Ass."
The problem with the film is within the film itself. Most of the first half was edited for the United States release due to the many sequences that Leeís character is involved. Thanks to this, the character of Tang Lung is confusing. As said before, the film was not released in the States, but then Bruce Lee died just as Enter The Dragon was released in 1973, so this film was released a few months after Enter. After seeing the original cut of the film, in my opinion, I think it was unnecessary to edit such parts, since takes the original shine off the film and character development. Tang Lung is portrayed as a person from the countryside in Hong Kong, he has never lived in the city, and when he arrives at Rome itís pretty clear. He feels hungry and wants to eat, but doesnít know how to ask, sinceÖhe doesnít speak English. He scares a kid innocently because he wants a piece of his ice cream and doesnít know how to ask him, orders seven bowls of soup because he canít read the menu, he gets invited to a prostituteís house and since he doesnít know what to do he starts practicing martial arts, he squats on the toilet instead of sitting (just like an ordinary rural man would do), etc. I mean, to think that showing Bruce Lee play and depict the unfortunate ignorance of a rural man in a big city is bad for his star image, is total bullshit. They shouldíve left the film just like it was. A little subtitles wouldíve been useful too since we also get scenes where Lee is telling the translator to tell the mob boss what heís saying even though we get all in English. Gosh, have they ever heard of subtitles before?
The high of the script, which was written by Lee himself, is his accurate depiction of the rural man in a big city. Sure, itís funny and sometimes dumb, but thatís just how people in the countryside are, theyíll always feel uncomfortable in the city because itís not their environment. Lee scores high in those depictions, and his comedic antics also are shown very well here. The low of the script is unfortunately the storyline itself. The plot contains several embarrassing plot holes that will leave the audiences with a chuckle or two. The supposed suspense where the Italian mobsters harass the restaurant and itís employers is pretty much nonexistent, and the supposed twists and double-crosses arenít believable, and pretty much drag along during most of the film. The scene where the mobsters threaten Chang and try to force her to sign the bill of sale contain no suspense at all. Some of us would rather fast-forward through these parts, since they drag and hamper the film a lot. Leeís directing isnít as great either, and he fails to create the right atmosphere in most of the scenes that require the build up of suspense, and also the acting of the supporting cast is almost wooden. But then, everything is forgiven when the fight scenes come along.
Where Lee shines as a director is, of course, the fight scenes, since the suspense all of a sudden bursts out like hell. The many fight scenes with the mob guys, especially where he takes on 12 mobsters alone, are riveting, and well choreographed. The cinematography again itís on itís very best. But the best is saved for last, as Lee and his friends go and take on martial artists Wang Ing-Sik and Robert Wall, and then the classic face off between Lee and Chuck Norris in the Roman Coliseum. Hell, thatís as awesome as it gets, and itís probably the sole reason why to watch this movie. Unfortunately, the film fails to grab hold of its fire in the somewhat ridiculous ending.
Lee delivers his most charismatic performance to date, the rest of the supporting cast somehow falters during much of the movie, and give out some pretty wooden performances that may annoy the audience, especially that fuck that plays the mob bossí translator and the restaurant owner.In the end, the film hits big and misses big, but still, one can appreciate the trying of Lee as he starts his then young skills as writer and director, and progress towards maturity would have been shown had Lee lived a little longer. One way or another, this film deserves a casual view, especially since we get to see Lee kicking Norrisí ass, something that we rarely see these days.
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originally posted: 12/31/01 21:27:16