Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Enter the Dragon (1973) Review

Enter the Dragon poster
Director: Robert Clouse
Stars: Bruce Lee, John Saxon, Jim Kelly
Genre: Kung Fu, Spy

Enter the Dragon is the film that solidified Bruce Lee's international fame and it is by far his most well-known film (at least outside of China). It also marks the first time that a Chinese film studio (Golden Harvest) and a Hollywood film studio (Warner Bros.) collaborated in making a film. A very important film in that in further drove the kung fu craze of the 70s...the craze which Lee had started in the first place.

The plot involves Bruce Lee's character entering an island tournament held by an evil Han as a spy to try and bring Han to justice. That's about all you need to know to figure out how the rest goes.

The plot is much more English than any Bruce Lee film before it. Which makes sense being that it is, after all, an American-English film. The story is reminiscent of many English spy thrillers. A sort of mix between James Bond and Fu Manchu.

Luckily Enter the Dragon isn't just a silly Hollywood cash-in on a kung fu fad. Bruce Lee wouldn't let that happen. Bruce Lee himself heavily revised the script and he even wrote and directed the opening sequence of the film. Lee said that he wanted to make it more than just another action film.

That being said, it's still not a product fully of Bruce Lee (like Way of the Dragon was or the unfinished Game of Death would have been). Bruce Lee manages to sneak his own philosophies and beliefs in there though to, like he said, make it more than just another action film. 

The opening sequence gives a great sense of Lee's own philosophy (which makes sense being that he wrote and directed the opening, and is probably my favorite scene of the film). And of course this great scene. Then there's little things like Lee's character's refusal to wear a uniform (reflecting Lee's own revolt against styles and traditions). The scene where Lee tells the man on the boat that his style is "Fighting without fighting" and then tricks him into a smaller boat is actually based on a famous anecdote involving 16th century samurai Tsukahara Bokuden. Bruce Lee was very much like a modern Bokuden in that they both preferred an adaptive style; Bokuden himself calling his sword-fighting style the Style of No-Sword.

Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon opening

The cast in Enter the Dragon is great. You got to love the super fly Jim Kelly and the high-roller John Saxon. Both did excellent jobs. Robert Wall returns from Way of the Dragon and plays a great unsporting goon. Many of the stuntmen were of the Seven Little Fortunes troupe, including Sammo Hung and Jackie Chan.

Bruce Lee and John Saxon in Enter the Dragon

The film could of benefited from some more and some cooler fight scenes. There's not too much in the way of choreography that I'd call memorable. Of course everyone will remember the great mirror scene (taken from The Lady From Shanghai and later used in The Man With the Golden Gun).

Lalo Schifrin's score is also superb. 

Bruce Lee mirror scene Enter the Dragon

Many people's favorite Bruce Lee film. I'd personally go with Way of the Dragon but this is a great one as well. Bruce certainly saved it from being another mindless action flick. 

3.5/5 stars

Purchase Enter the Dragon on Amazon: Blu-Ray - DVD - Stream
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