Return of the Dragon (The Way of the Dragon) Reviews
The story concerns Bruce coming to Rome to help out a woman who's restaurant is being threatened by some kind of absurdly diverse mob. There's a pretty Chinese girl for him to rescue, a bunch of comic relief fighters to keep the bad guys busy until Bruce is ready to smack 'em around, and a hilariously offensive Asian stereotype running things as the number two for the "sinister" bad guy.
There's not much serious about Return of the Dragon, so I wouldn't put it on par with Enter the Dragon (which is a classic, in my opinion). But, the fights are fun and there's nothing wrong with seeing a martial arts movie that tries to make you laugh, every once in a while. Check it out if you're a fan of Lee or older movies of this kind.
There will indeed never be another Bruce Lee. I find it fascinating to imagine what Bruce would have done if he had lived, the 80's and 90's would have been very different if Arnie, Stallone, Wiilis, Seagal and Van Damme had Bruce to compete with, Bruce is sometimes critcised for being a bad actor, but i disagree, if anyone has seen his episodes of `Longstreet' or `Marlowe' they will see that Bruce could convincingly carry a dramatic scene given the right script and no dubbing and he oozed charisma, and he showed glimpses of good acting in Enter The Dragon.
Being a Bruce fan i kind of wish that Jet Li would do the films that bruce did or was planning on doing, Jet's early work in Honk Kong like the Shaolin Temple or more recent stuff like Fist Of Legend(remake of Fist Of Fury) and Once Upon A Time In China was very promising and it seemed he was the successor to Bruce but instead now he's doing crap in Hollywood with DMX and Jason Statham. Strangely the mediocre Lethal Weapon 4 is Jet's best Hollywood film, Maybe Jet should do a project with John Woo, it would be interesting and they'd probably get the best out of each other.
In "Way of the Dragon", Bruce Lee plays Tang Lung, a young man from Hong Kong who is sent to Rome by his uncle in order to help a family friend, "Uncle" Wang (Chung-Hsin Huang). At his arrival, he is informed that the problem is that the Italian Mafia wants the family's restaurant, and uses violent intimidation to pressure the owner. While at first not everyone is convinced that Tang Lung would be of any help (as he is not used to the city), soon they discover that Tang is in fact a talented Martial Artist. With Tang Lung's help, the Restaurant's waiters manage to defend themselves from the gangsters, but the Mafia Boss is completely decided to get the Restaurant, so he hires a group of Martial Arts experts, including the famous Colt (Chuck Norris) to eliminate Tang Lung.
After proving he was a bankable star, Bruce Lee finally got the opportunity of not only writing, but also directing his own film. Free at last to make his vision of a Martial Arts film come true, Lee builds up a film focused on two very personal themes for him. On one hand, his very own experience as a stranger in a strange land, and the feelings of being like a fish out of the water; and on the other, his ideal of the hero who uses his very own technique to fight against the established disciplines. While the plot is very straight forward, and a bit typical, Lee uses it effectively to showcase his own ideals and philosophies as martial artist, delivering finally an action film with some depth beyond watching the character overcome the enemies.
Borrowing heavily from Spaghetti Westerns (even some score by Morricone is used), Lee creates a magnificent epic set on the beautiful locations of Rome, where his lonely hero Tang Lung arrives as a modern day cowboy to right some wrongs. While of course not an expert filmmaker (it was after all, his first film as a director), Lee shows a great eye for visuals, as the camera becomes an essential part in the creation of the sublimely choreographed fights, and the highly stylish set pieces (again, influenced by Sergio Leone's westerns). "Meng Long Guojiang is definitely the basics for what Lee conceived as a Martial Arts film, and many of what he developed for this movie would become of great influence for future directors of the genre.
Due to his character in "Enter the Dragon", most people remember Bruce Lee's acting as a serious, dark personification of the perfect martial arts warrior, however, "Meng Long Guojiang" is a chance to discover a way different side of Lee's persona, as he allows himself to be as funny and human as skilled in Kung-Fu. "Way of the Dragon" offers insight into Lee as a comedy actor, as Tang Lung's personality (and probably Bruce's real one too) is that of a happy man who enjoys life. The rest of the cast ranges from good to average, with one amazing exception: Ping-Ao Wei. As the treacherous translator Ho, Ping-Ao Wei delivers one of the best comedic performances of his career, and an excellent (and effective) comic relief for the film.
As written above, the cast (mostly the case of the many extras in the film) most of the time doesn't seem up to the challenge of the film, and the awful dubbing done doesn't really help with that. Another truly big problem is that Lee didn't had enough budget to fulfill his vision and in some scenes it really shows. This two problems really hurt the film badly, and while Lee's inexperience behind the camera is quite obvious, it's safe to say that he delivered a great job against the odds. The epic tone of the film and the superb climatic scenes really make up for the notorious flaws the film has, and one gets to wonder how would "Game of Death" may had turned up if Lee had lived enough to complete it.
It's a shame that Lee died so soon and was unable to craft his ultimate Martial Arts film, leaving the world wondering what would he do to top this film (and the reliable sources agree that "Game of Death" was really going to be his best). This flawed masterpiece may not be perfect, but it's monumental when one realizes how influential it became. Sure, "Enter the Dragon" may be the better film of the two, but "Meng Long Guojiang" is the film that shows us how Lee really was, and what he really believed in. In more than one sense, "Meng Long Guojiang" is truly, the real Way of the Dragon.
Bruce Lee both wrote and directed Return of the Dragon, by watching the movie you wouldn't be able to tell it's Bruce Lee first and only time directing a movie. Like his Martial Arts, he does it with grace and flows easily to watch.
Main plot is Bruce Lee plays a man who visits his relatives at their restaurant in Italy and has to help them defend against brutal gangsters harassing them. It has a good blend of drama and humor, though I think it lack in Martial Art when compared to Enter the Dragon or Fists of Fury.
It's still to this day that Bruce Lee died unprecedentedly, he had a bright future many more bright ideas. This movie reminds us of what could have been a legendary career of Martial Art cinema Icon.
Third Lee film about his trip to Italy and his decision to help his relatives defend against gangsters causing them harm. Pretty good Kung Fu film, mostly remembered for its final fight with Chuck Norris in Colosseum. Followed by ENTER THE DRAGON.