Flashback Review: Bruce Lee's Way of the Dragon
In our next instalment of our Flashback Review, we will be looking at Bruce Lee's Way of the Dragon, or known in North America as Return of the Dragon. This marks the first and only movie that Bruce Lee directed. He also wrote the screenplay and choreographed the fight scenes. From what I understand it was released in Hong Kong in 1972, but released in America only in 1974. In all, it grossed $85 million US, which is huge for that time period. Bruce Lee played the leading role and was accompanied of Paul Wei, CH Huang, IS Woing, Robert Wall, Tony Lui, Nora Miao and a very young Chuck Norris, which was the movie that launched his acting career.
In summary, the story is about Tang (Bruce Lee) who leaves Hong Kong to go help some family members in Rome who are having trouble with a Mafia syndicate. All seems to be getting better for the family until Tang faces off against their biggest asset Colt (Chuck Norris) in the Coliseum. While Tang is fighting Colt, the Uncle who owns the restaurant turns on his family killing 3 of his most loyal nephews in the name of prosperity. He also attempts to kill Tang, but is shot down by the Godfather gangster figure just before being arrested by police. The movie ends with some goodbyes at the cemetery between the only surviving family members and Tang, and we see Tang leaving into the sunset.
Viewing the movie in 2015, it feels quite dated. The acting is not the best, but there was a definite attempt to use humour in the movie. Sometimes the humour appear a little awkward but we have to keep in mind that the movie was intended for Asia, not North America. The locals do not sound Italian at all which I find a little odd. Having some locals with Italian accents would of made the movie more authentic. However they did not have a huge budget to work with and knowing this, it was probably the best they could do. Bruce Lee looked more natural in his role. I also find that this movie marked the beginning of Bruce Lee's sharing his true Kung Fu philosophy and beliefs. He demonstrated on numerous aoccasions his restraight from fighting expressing some fear of hurting people. This is beautifully demonstrated with when he killed Colt (Chuck Norris) and covered him with his Kung Fu shirt and his belt as a sign of respect. He is telling the world that in battle, you always respect your opponent.
When reviewing a martial art movie, you need to discuss about the actual fighting scenes. The ally scenes are legendary, but also Bruce used some humour in his fights like the goon who hits himself in the head with nunchucks during one of the alley fight scenes. I believe organizing a fight in the great Coliseum in Rome was pure genius. What best venue to have a climax fight in a movie with two future legends. This fight sequence has to be one of the best original ones on film. Both Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris demonstrated what they can do.
The Bottom Line
Any fan of martial arts movies will definitely enjoy this movie. It has an aged feel to it, but what classical martial art movie isn't. It has beautiful scenic shots of all the tourists areas of Rome, which was probably rare at the time the movie was filmed. It mixed martial arts with humour which probably influenced other future actors like Jackie Chan. As all of the Bruce Lee movies, the fight scenes are what makes the movie. The major fight in the Coliseum is also a great touch.
I would give it an "A" for fights, but a "B" for the acting. A must see if you like the martial art style movie.
For your viewing pleasure, please find below the legendary fight between Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris in the Coliseum!!!!