‘Blu-ray or Bust’
BIRTH OF THE DRAGON (2016, R, 95 minutes, Groundswell Productions / Kylin Pictures)
I’m going to make this one quick… quicker than Bruce Lee’s corpse rolling over in his grave.
The premise has so much potential for a good story but fails in the most typical ways. The acting is flawed to an almost crappy-campy extent. Philip Ng as Bruce Lee is pushed to an over-cocky, aggressive level with a very contrasting thoughtful and restrained Yu Xia, as Wong Jack Man, making things awkward scene-to-scene. To put this in temporal perspective, set in 1965, after Bruce studied under Ip Man and moved to San Francisco, Wong Jack Man, a well-known shaolin monk, heads to the US looking to center himself after a humbling defeat in a traditional challenge. Lee fears Man is there to observe his teachings and to eventually push him out. You must understand, Lee has done the unthinkable, started teaching outsiders Kung Fu, something the homeland masters find shameful.
Director George Nolfi is more known for his script writing, THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU, THE BORNE ULTIMATUM, SPECTRAL. He should have known better than this. Which, after doing some research after my viewing, may have been the case. After the initial research, audiences did not like that fact the original story was centered on an American student instead. Thanks to fans wanting more fighting and kung fu wisdom, the pressure twisted up the plot and editing.
If you want to make the time, the fighting is thrilling and skillful. I am a sucker for Chinese traditional martial arts, even if it has plenty of Wing Chun on display. You could see the tributes to Lee’s career mixed in but does little to share what really transpired and what you would want after so much great cinema in the martial arts world as of late. After this though, I will not be so hopeful with a new Bruce Lee movie.
Film Grade: C-
Special Features: Didn’t bother
Blu-ray Necessary: Pass
-- James S. Austin