Friday, March 8, 2013

The Big Boss (1971) Review

Bruce Lee's The Big Boss 1971 poster
Director: Lo Wei
Stars: Bruce Lee, James Tien, Nora Miao, Maria Yi
Genre: Kung Fu

Bruce Lee's first film, The Big Boss a.k.a. Fists of Fury (not to be confused with his second film The Chinese Connection a.k.a. Fist of Fury).

Cheng (Lee) moves to a new town to live with his cousins, who set him up with a job at the factory they all work at. Cheng, who sworn on his mother to never fight again, is alas forced to when some of his cousins and fellow co-worker go missing and suspects his employers to have something to do with it.

This was Bruce Lee's first major film, the one that brought him to fame, but curiously enough it wasn't at first intended to be a Bruce Lee film. It was originally written with James Tien (Cheng's cousin in the film) in mind for the lead role but while shooting Bruce Lee displayed his awesome skill and talent and thus the film was modified to have Bruce Lee be the star. Proof of this exists within the film itself; for the first half it is Tien who plays the star, kicking ass and getting the most screen and fight time. Bruce Lee hardly fights, or does anything for that matter, in the first half of the film (which only adds to the anticipation in my opinion). But, as the film goes on, Tien is quickly pushed to the side in order for the camera to capture Lee. Tien later went on to have roles in Lee's The Chinese Connection and Game of Death.

The story is whatever, it's extremely conventional but it's really only an excuse to see Bruce Lee beat the shit out of people, right? And it shouldn't need saying but Bruce Lee is very good at just that.

Bruce Lee wasn't exactly the greatest actor just yet but his fighting was top notch. The fight choreography was very solid and there were some pretty awesome scenes (and some slightly disappointing ones I should add). There's plenty of very large brawls that were handled very well and no one should be surprised when they see Bruce Lee whoop the asses of twenty guys all at once.

Bruce Lee in The Big Boss

It was released by Golden Harvest, perhaps the best distributor and production company of Kung Fu films, only ever rivaled by Shaw Brothers (the company of which GH is an off-shoot of). Golden Harvest brought fame to the likes of Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and arguably even Chuck Norris, Jet Li, and Donnie Yen.

The success of this film, and indeed the success of Bruce Lee in general, sparked a very large worldwide market for Kung Fu films during the 70s. Not the first of its kind, and of course not the last, it was a very important work in the genre. While I still prefer Shaw Brothers over Golden Harvest (for the 70s at least) and I prefer my Kung Fu films set in Edo or Meiji period (or the regional equivalent) rather than modern settings, I still greatly appreciate The Big Boss and enjoy it immensely.

Bruce Lee in The Big Boss

A must see for Bruce Lee and Kung Fu fans. A central part of Bruce Lee's unfortunately small filmography.

3/5 stars

Purchase The Big Boss on Amazon: Blu-Ray - DVD - Bruce Lee Collection

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