Dir: Rob Cohen, 1993
Worthy biopic or shameless entertainment, cashing in on a legend’s death?
Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story documents the life of the famed martial arts movie star from a young boy in Hong Kong to International stardom before his death at the age of 32.
To call this film The Bruce Lee Story is a serious insult to the memory of the greatest kung fu master, that has ever graced the screen.
Surprisingly, Bruce’s widow, Linda Lee Cadwell, was a supervisor on the film, along with his daughter, Shannon.
Based on the book by Cadwell, Dragon takes so much liberty and artistic licence with Bruce’s life, that his wife and daughter should have had their names removed or insisted on the facts being told.
As someone who is a huge fan of Bruce Lee, I’ve read many books and articles on the great man so was able to differentiate fact from fiction.
Strangely, there is a lot of truth in the film but it’s all been ‘polished’. The dates are all wrong causing the timeline and narrative to be inconsistent with the real one.
All films purporting to be biographical, have a fair level of embellishment and a tweaking of the facts, but this one takes the piss.
Director Cohen hasn’t the foggiest what to do with the film, so resorts to just copying the set ups from Bruce’s earlier films. Lo Wei and Robert Clouse should be given co-directing credits.
Everything about the film is wrong. It relies on Chinese mysticism to propel the story and just, blatantly, invents parts of his life.
Bruce was never sent to America because of a dream his dad had. He wasn’t plagued with visions of a demon samurai warrior.
You have to ask yourself, “how could they get it so wrong?”. It beggars belief that his widow and daughter were happy to be associated with this drivel.
But, that’s only looking at it as a biographical film. If you were to judge it as a piece of fictional entertainment, then everything changes.
As pure fiction, it’s enjoyable. There’s just the right balance of action and drama, injected with Eastern beliefs.
It’s fun and ridiculous but is also, in a way, in poor taste by trivialising someone’s life.
At best, Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story is a parody of Bruce and his films, but is hidden behind the facade of “true story”.
Jason Scott Lee does a pretty good job as the kung fu master and deserves to portray him in a biography that is more faithful to Bruce.
However, the former Mrs. Jim Carrey, Lauren Holly, is without a hint of resemblance to Lee’s widow and terribly miscast, creating a role that has very little power and simply irks.
Unsurprisingly, the UK cinema and video releases were all cut by the British censors to remove the nunchakus being skillfully twirled.
Sadly, to save costs, this same cut version was issued on DVD in Britain and the rest of the world, besides the USA. Rather than make several masters for different countries, Universal opted to just make the one from the censored print and release that. The Blu Ray, though, is uncut.
Joyful if you ignore the notion that it’s supposed to be true, abysmal if you take it seriously.