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Capsule Reviews

Enter The Dragon    (1973)
‘The First American Produced Martial Arts Spectacular’ is a colourful, energetic multi-national production that finally acknowledged Hollywood’s acceptance of Bruce Lee.

A martial arts expert named Lee is hired by a government agency to infiltrate the operation of a criminal, organising a martial arts tournament to front his illegal drugs empire. Han, the leader of this operation, is a former member of Lee’s Shaolin Temple turned rogue and Lee is considered the best candidate to enter the tournament as a competitor, giving him the opportunity to investigate.

Robert Clouse’s martial arts blockbuster is a louder, colourful, more commercially appealing Bruce Lee film, a co-production between Golden Harvest and Warner Bros. For this reason it is undoubtedly Bruce’s most recognized film in the western market, but not of quite the same quality seen in his earlier Hong Kong work.

There are elements of Bruce’s philosophy in certain scenes, such as in a discussion when asked by his teacher “what is the highest technique you wish to achieve?” to which he answers; “to have no technique” (a nod to the Jeet Kune Do philosophy). Unfortunately, this takes a backseat compared to the ‘spy’ orientated story and typically Hollywood buddy movie style final partnership between Bruce and John Saxon.

That said, the visuals and production are arguably the most engaging aspects of the film, whereas the action generally looks good but doesn’t appear to offer anything radical for Bruce to handle. The best fight, by far, is Lee’s battle against Han’s bodyguards in his underground cave. A young Jackie Chan famously gets his neck broken in this scene, and Bruce upgrades weaponry from a staff, to a pair of short sticks, and finally acquiring a nunchaku. This sequence looks great and easily on par with his scenes dispatching multiple villains in Fist Of Fury and Way of the Dragon.

For the most part, the fights look visually ‘cool’ but don’t do anything to stretch the respective players. A prime example of this is Lee’s fight against O’Hara (Bob Wall), which has remained one of my Bruce favourites simply because it looks so good in slow-motion and Bruce’s moves, although minimal, look excellent – namely his powerful side kick! Yet it’s unfortunate the pair didn’t have the chance to do more (Bob Wall would later play a small role in Game of Death but that was for the 1978 version Bruce was sadly not around for).

Enter the Dragon is still a very good and highly entertaining film, but dilutes so many of Bruce’s trademarks evident in his earlier work that is certainly comes across as a compromised film for a foreign market. As a result, it did not do as well in Asia as his previous work, but has still acquired ‘classic’ status by most fans around the world that still enjoy it as a slightly differently flavoured Bruce Lee adventure. This shouldn’t deter fans from enjoying what was to be Bruce’s final finished project, as shortly after completing the film he passed away due to a cerebral edema. In such an incredible career cut tragically short, Bruce achieved more than most would hope to accomplish in a lifetime career.

Believing films were far more effective than books to communicate messages and ideas to an audiences, Bruce inserted ideas and innovations into his action-packed martial arts work, giving audiences entertainment and education decades after his death.

While Enter the Dragon may not rank alongside the likes of Fist Of Fury, it still carries its own merit, made a hugely successful Hollywood / Hong Kong crossover and importantly paved the way for eastern stars and filmmakers in the west today.
Mike Fury 1/30/2009 - top

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 1/30/2009 Mike Fury

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