Thursday, August 24, 2017

Movie Review: "Enter the Dragon" (1973)

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Movie"Enter the Dragon"
Director: Robert Clouse
Year: 1973
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 42 minutes

A martial arts master named Lee is asked to participate in a tournament that is being held on a ruthless crime lord's private island. Lee is also tasked with going undercover to gather evidence of his criminal activities.

"Enter the Dragon" puts now iconic martial arts superstar Bruce Lee in what was one of his most memorable roles. This film is also the first Kung Fu movie to be produced by a Hollywood studio, and it is the last feature film Bruce Lee ever completed, though it is not his last on-screen appearance. It is directed by Robert Clouse, who would go on to direct other martial arts films such as "Black Belt Jones," "Battle Creek Brawl," and the ultimate, most highly revered martial arts flick of all time, "Gymkata."

The plot of "Enter the Dragon" is simple. Shaolin Kung Fu master Lee, played by Bruce Lee, has been invited to compete in a martial arts tournament held on the private island of a crime lord named Han, played by Kien Shih, who once trained at the Shaolin temple as well, but his life choices brought disgrace to their expected way of life. A secret intelligence agency asks Lee to go undercover for them in order to find evidence of Han's criminal activities. Joining Lee in the film are Jim Kelly, who would also become a well-known martial arts action star in films like "Black Belt Jones" and "Black Samurai," as well as character actor John Saxon, who plays gambling addict Roper, who is able to put his Karate black belt to good use in this film.

This is one of those movies where you know all the action scenes were written first. Writer Michael Allin and director Robert Clouse had certain showdowns they wanted to make happen, so they made them. They wanted Bruce Lee to show off his specific skill sets, so they wrote the story to fill in the gaps between these two things. That being said, it doesn't make "Enter the Dragon" any less fun or engaging. The island setting in this picture is one that is extremely lush and quite gorgeous, and the interior sets are decorated with wonderful Asian-style pieces combined with psychedelic 70's flair. What this film is really about is Bruce Lee and the fight scenes in general. People still remember it and want to watch it because it has been able to transcend time with these iconic scenes. The audience is treated to some fantastic martial arts moment on full display from both Lee and Kelly, as well as a fun showdown between Saxon's Roper and Bolo Yeung, who would become well known for playing a muscle-bound baddie in numerous other martial arts-driven films. We just love the action throughout "Enter the Dragon," specifically the one that pits Lee against U.S. Karate champ Bob Wall. And who can forget the final showdown between Lee and Han in the mirrored room, a scene that has been imitated in other films many times since 1973?

The story may be flimsy, the dialogue is pretty clunky outside of a few memorable lines from Lee himself, and the acting is rudimentary at best, but damn it, we still have a lot of fun watching "Enter the Dragon."
My Rating: 7/10
BigJ's Rating: 7.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 95%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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