When I'm not riding the rails in search of adventure and canned beans, I like to read and write about martial arts. Mostly because it is one of my other jobs and allows me to afford cans that actually have labels.
Along the way, I've learned some pretty surprising things. Like, did you know Bruce Lee was pretty good at fighting? And that he made movies about fighting? True story. Figuring it was about time I saw one of his flicks for myself, I dived right into 1973's Enter the Dragon
At Shaolin Temple, Bruce Lee's training has progressed to the highest level. His master now has a task for them. Former student Kien Shih has used his Shaolin skills to amass an empire of prostitution and drugs. To restore Shaolin's honor and avenge his sister, Lee must travel to Shih's island and participate in a deadly tournament of fighters from around the world.
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Enter the Dragon was one of the first international kung fu hits, yet nearly 40 years later, questions remain. Like, does that mean we should be expecting a dragon shortly? Or are we being commanded to take a trip ourselves? Because I've had my suit all ready for years. It is made of aluminum foil. If that stuff isn't hot when you take a potato out of the oven, I'm betting it'll do just fine in a dragon's belly.
Like other martial arts movies from the period, Enter the Dragon is pretty dated. To the modern eye, the choreography is pretty basic. A lot of crotch shots, too. By kicks and punches, I mean. Don't get too excited.
The ironic thing about this lack of flashiness, however, is that the stars here were genuine masters. It's widely known Lee sometimes moved too fast for a camera to capture. Do you know how fast cameras are? Me neither. But I bet it's pretty fast. Removed from modern effects and camera techniques, Lee's unadulterated skill is all the more impressive. Even if his battle cries sometimes sound like the world's deadliest chicken.
It's a good thing, too, because the plot isn't much to write about. It starts strong enough, with Lee tapped for help from his temple, his family, and a mysterious international police force. From there, it lags in the middle, but picks up with a vengeance once Shih's dark side comes out. In one scene, he's revealed to have a metal hand, an elite squad of female bodyguards, and absolutely no compunctions about guillotining his pet cat. It's Bond territory, and the final fight is no less epic. It's easy to see what made Enter the Dragon such a smash.