Enter the Dragon (Robert Clouse, 1973)Lee (Bruce Lee) is a Shaolin martial artist from Hong Kong who possesses great philosophical insight into martial arts as well as physical prowess. He receives an invitation to a martial arts competition on an island organised by the mysterious Mr. Han (Shih Kien). Lee learns from his Sifu (teacher) that Han was also once a Shaolin student, but had been expelled from their order for abusing their code of conduct. Han is suspected to be involved in drug trafficking and prostitution. He also runs a martial arts school to protect his drug operations, as well as holding his tournament every three years to recruit international talent to expand his criminal business. Before leaving, Lee learns from his teacher that Han's bodyguard O'Hara (Robert Wall) had been involved in the death of his sister, Su Lin.
Often cited as Bruce Lee’s final film, it is also one of the most recognized martial arts movies and, indeed, a cult film. Lately, the cult status of some films has been interesting me very much. Enter the Dragon was on many lists of films that I wanted to watch : 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, one of Quentin Tarantino’s obvious influences for his Kill Bill, and a WikiPedia list of Cult Films. Another aspect of this, and I’m a little ashamed to say, is the fact that it was the first film from Bruce Lee I ever watched. At a younger age I used like Jackie Chan’s films like Rumble in the Bronx. As a matter of fact, Chan has a 3 second presence in Enter the Dragon. But their styles are very different and Lee is more of a calm and restreint presence while Chan was more of a comedian doing stunts. Chan was opnely influenced by Buster Keaton and his The General. Finally, I’d like to dedicate this review to Jim Kelly who stars as the cool cat Williams, a black karate expert, and who just past away from a cancer.
Despite a very standard story that sets the perfect setup to a grand finale that showcase an epic battle between Lee and Han. The comical effects and the plot elements give the film a naive charm that Lee’s vision tainted. Knowing that he supervised and adapted the script himself isn’t far in someone’s head while watching the spectacle of martial arts and Asian stereotypes.
Just like any other cult film, the viewer has to fully embrace the film and forget the weak plot and the amateurish mise en scène. Just to witness Bruce Lee’s art and his dedication to style and culture might be enough to watch at least once this pop culture classic. How many little boys have had a poster of this movie in his room? I remember my best friend Dave had one in his living room, and it was almost an apartment like the one in The Apartment. More than ten years later I watched the damn thing and quite enjoyed it for what it was and especially for what it represents.