Birth of the Dragon and all the images you see in this review are owned by BH Tilt and WWE Studios
Directed by George Nolfi
Now I’ve always been more of a Jackie Chan guy myself (sorry, but the guy has a much larger filmography and basically reinvented the genre by incorporating vaudevillian slapstick into the martial arts) but Bruce Lee is a dude who earned all the respect that he gets by being the first big Asian star in cinema and defining a genre of film for generations to come. There have been plenty of Bruce Lee films since his death in 1973, almost all of which were in pretty poor taste, but there hasn’t been one in quite some time so maybe now is the time to remind everyone just how awesome and badass he was with a brand new and super slick Hollywood production… or at least something approaching that. Can this film bring the man back to the forefront of action filmmaking one more time, or is this yet another example of how to pay tribute to him in the worst way possible? Let’s find out!!
The story begins in 1960s San Francisco where Bruce Lee (Philip Ng) hasn’t quite made it as a star but is certainly building up a following as the country’s greatest martial artist and a potential star of the silver screen. Of course, with this brazen attitude and willingness to teach anyone of any race the secrets of Eastern martial arts had gotten the ire of some of the more traditional masters back in China; including Wong Jack Man (Yu Xia) who’s come to San Francisco as some sort of journey of self-discovery and repentance for his own misdeeds. One of Lee’s students Steve McKee (Billy Magnussen) goes to greet Wong Jack Man at the port and they soon form something resembling a friendship with the latter still not happy with what Lee has been teaching to people like Steve which has always been a sacred practice as well as Chinese one. Eventually Lee’s pride and arrogance (and to a certain extent Wong Jack Man’s as well) leads the two to eventually meet and have a rather public standoff that may someday lead to the fight to end all fights. Oh, and there are Chinese gangsters in this movie somewhere because what kind of martial arts movie would this be if there WEREN’T Chinese gangsters hanging around? Will Bruce and Wong find a way to hash out their differences, even if they have to face each other in combat to do so? Will Steve be able to save his girlfriend from those Chinese Gangsters we were talking about because OF COURSE that subplot has to be in here somewhere? Is it just me, or does the guy in this movie look more like Moe Howard than Bruce Lee?