Saturday, February 17, 2018

Enter the Dragon

Enter the Dragon; action, Hong Kong / China / USA, 1973; D: Robert Clouse, S: Bruce Lee, John Saxon, Shih Kien, Ahna Capri

Superlative martial arts fighter Lee defeats his opponent at a tournament. He is then approached by a British investigator who pleads for Lee's help: criminal Han killed a lot of people and is selling drugs with impunity, so Lee's assignment is to go to his island in Hong Kong and collect evidence against Han. Lee uses a fighter tournament as a guise to enter the island, where he also finds American Roper and Williams. During the day, Lee fights, but investigates during the night. In a duel, Lee kills brute O'Hara, who used illegal tricks, such as broken bottles, to attack Lee. Han kills Williams and shows Roper a cave where he produces drugs, but Roper refuses to join his forces. Lee raids the hideout, the prisoners are freed. In a duel, Lee kills Han and waits for the police.

Martial arts film "Enter the Dragon" is good, yet would have been quickly forgotten due to cliches, a conventional storyline and some 'rough edges' hadn't it been for Bruce Lee's legendary performance. His charismatic looks, a blend of wisdom and coolness, are the main highlight of the story: the movie is ordinary, yet his virtuoso fighting is extraordinary. Due to Lee's efforts (and his unfortunate early death which secured him cult status), the martial arts subgenre of the 70s hit the ceiling, leaving an unprecedented cultural impact and world success, leaving the West in fascination with Eastern fights the following decades. Lee participates in only five battle sequences, which makes for a sparse, though precious time in which they are used in the film. Unlike the meticulously choreographed fight sequences by Jackie Chan (who appears in the film as one of the villain's henchmen whom Lee kills in a quick 10 second fight), Lee uses a 'down-to-earth', realistic and grity style, without glamour. Despite a rather routine, standard writing, there are a few refreshing moments outside the fighting sequences that stand out: one example is the sequence in which a bad guy asks Lee how he can "win a battle without a fight", so Lee tells him to enter a boat, only to then hold the said bad guy captured on the sea by holding the rope attached to the boat. The episodic characters sometimes lead the storyline too much, and one of the curiosities involves the villain Han who exchanges his fake hand with an iron claw in the finale. It is impossible to predict how Lee's career would have prospered had he lived after the huge success of the "Dragon", yet the film offers just enough to stand as a monument to the actor's ability and talent.


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