Starring: Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Nora Miao, Chung-Hsin Huang, Ping Ou Wei
Directed By: Bruce Lee
Written By: Bruce Lee
Rating: R (US) Running Time: 1 hr 30 min
Country boy Tang Lung (Bruce Lee) is sent to Rome after his uncle’s friend, Nora (Chen Ching Hua) calls to get help with a troublesome local crime syndicate. The Way of the Dragon, or Return of the Dragon as it was known in the US, marks Lee’s one and only time helming a full length martial arts feature. A year before his tragic death on July 20th, 1973.
When it comes to Bruce Lee, I’ve always been a fan, and dearly wish he had made some more films. Though strangely I always forget the titles, and just recall them by their most iconic component. The one with the yellow jump suit or, the one with the mirrors. The Way of the Dragon is remembered as, the one with Chuck Norris and the kitten!
Looking at The Way of the Dragon away from the mystique of Mr. Lee, as a movie amongst movies, it has a lot of problems. For a start, the action doesn’t really get going until after 30 minutes into the film, and prior to that, the story is nearly all exposition to set up a plot similar to something that’s concluded in a 45 minute A-Team episode. A nasty rich bloke wants Nora to sell her restaurant, and will stop at nothing to get what he wants. Great, so why after 30 minutes into the film have I only seen Lee eat soup, hide in a closest, and drive around Rome?
Once the action does get going however, the film starts to improve, and despite the limited, yet juicy demonstrations of Lee’s incredible skill, the movie starts to build nicely towards its epic conclusion. Which brings me to Chuck and the kitten*. The final battle at the end of Dragon is the single best reason to see this movie, and it’s arguably one of the best martial arts sequences ever shot.
A testament to Lee’s ability, but also Chuck Noris’s fighting skills, as the two share blows in an awesome demonstration of speed, stamina and training. And even though Lee, by all the evidence presented in this movie, was a very inexperienced director, he at least knew how to capture the action with Norris. Very little movement of the camera, very few cuts, and a nicely choreographed fight sequence that allows you appreciate every punch and kick. Something more experienced film makers screw up on a regular basis!
* The final battle was frequently cut with shots of a cute kitten playing.
It’s a slow starter, and honestly, you could probably skip the first 30 minutes of this movie as you won’t be missing much. If you like martial arts movies, this is going to entertain – if you haven’t already watched it a million times like I have! This movie is rated R due to its violent martial arts content.
Though the epic final battle looks great set within the Colosseum, this movie works just fine on a regular streaming or standard format DVD on a TV, laptop or tablet.
The battle between Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris of course!