The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
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All Critics (48)
| Top Critics (8)
| Fresh (12)
| Rotten (36)
There's no reason a movie in which Bruce Lee and Steve McQueen (er, "Steve McKee") duke it out with Chinatown gangsters in mid-1960s San Francisco has any business being this joyless and dull.
It wants to be a character study, an explication of martial arts philosophy and an action picture ... But the film never really gets fully juiced until the climax ...
Zippy, B-movie entertainment. It proves that zeroing in on a small but significant part of a famous person's story, and how it reflects on their life at large, can often make for a sturdier entertainment than the usual long-skim approach to the biopic.
How, this far into the 21st century, does a film like this get made? One that shunts Bruce Lee to the status of secondary character in a lazy and boringly familiar star-crossed romance?
An inferior effort that fails to do justice to both its central character and provocative premise.
Ng does a fine job as Lee, but ... he doesn't capture the charisma and magnetism of Lee - understandable, since he was among the most charismatic and magnetic people on the planet.
Sadly, Birth of the Dragon does not shed any considerable revelations on the aura of Bruce Lee . There is simply no excuse for any full feature vehicle that aims to echo the magnetism of the boisterous Bruce Lee to come off as flat and flavorless
So, our main character in the "Bruce Lee Origin Movie" (really!) is... some fictional guy named Steve.
This cheaply produced and oddly unfocused drama is underwhelming in the extreme.
Has enough energy and spark to hold the audience's interest. But the script's focus on a caucasian character throws the central story off balance.
Not only does Birth of the Dragon struggle to correctly handle its main character, Lee is also often positioned as a mere supporting character in an overplayed, overdone romance between McKee and Jingjing Qu's Xiulan.
I sometimes felt more like I was watching the pilot episode of a 1980s TV show -- a cheap action-adventure series in which the cheerful kung-fu teacher Bruce Lee would come to the aid of someone pestered by bad guys.
One doesn't see enough Bruce Lee ripoff movies anymore, but this kung-fu epic surprises by spending more love on the story than on the butt kicking, making for a more satisfactory experience. Don't pass this one by, as I nearly did, as simply just another ripoff of the legend. There's real stuff here.
Birth of the Dragon introduces Bruce Lee as a character to the modern industry and the results are very terrible. Feels exactly nothing like those Bruce Lee movies that inspired this film. If it was more built under the pressure, maybe this film could have been better than what it is today.
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