Release Date: Aug. 25, 2017
Run Time: 1 hour 43 min
After Credit Scene: NO
IMAX Viewing: NO
3D Viewing: NO
Reviewer: Wayne Demers
The Dope Sheet Score: 7.7 out of 10
A non-spoiler review.
“Set against the backdrop of 1960s San Francisco, BIRTH OF THE DRAGON is a modern take on the classic movies that Bruce Lee was known for. It takes its inspiration from the epic and still controversial showdown between an up-and-coming Bruce Lee and kung fu master Wong Jack Man – a battle that gave birth to a legend.”
What you need to know about Birth of the Dragon: The movie is based on actual events, but after doing some research, it is unclear how much embellishment Hollywood has done on this story. Accounts by friends of Lee and friends of Man differ greatly and the narrative of their relationship also differs depending on which camp you speak with. As near as I can tell, the movie is based on a fight had between the Lee and Man, little of the story told in this movie is true.
What works: Philip Ng plays the role of Bruce Lee. Not only does Philip share a likeness to Lee, his fighting style is also very believable to that of Lee. Yu Xia plays Wong Jack Man, a Shaolin Monk who comes to the US and eventually fights Bruce Lee. He provides the best performance of the film in both acting and martial arts. The moments when there is fighting are very well choreographed and very entertaining. I enjoyed the backdrop of the film and the way in which the story was told.
What doesn’t work: I did not care for how Bruce Lee was portrayed in the film. It is as if the director viewed one of Lee’s movies and gave him that persona. With Lee pointing at people frequently and coming across as brash, cocky, and paranoid I’ve not seen this depiction of Bruce Lee in any biography or documentary done prior to this film. Billy Magnussen is cast as Steve McKee, a student of Lee and one who acts as a go-between of Lee and Man. I felt his performance was weak and at times annoying. His story wasn’t developed enough or in a way to care of his characters outcome. As I mentioned before, learning of interaction of Lee and Man, I was disappointed that the movie is “based” on true events but much of this story has been Hollywoodized (is that a word?).
Despite what I believe does not work, this movie is very entertaining. Those who like martial arts and action movies will most likely enjoy this movie. Bruce Lee is an icon whose story is bound to be told over again for generations to come. Along the way, I hope Hollywood’s interpretation of who he was doesn’t repaint Lee as a person that he was not.
On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the highest, I give Birth of the Dragon a 7.7. Grab some concessions and enjoy some great action.
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