Review: I Am Bruce Lee
PLOT: An in-depth examination of Kung-Fu cinema superstar Bruce Lee, who to this day remains the most iconic martial artist in film history.
REVIEW: Bruce Lee had a profound influence on my life. Despite the fact that I wasnt born until 1981, eight years after his death, he inspired me like few other movie stars or athletes have. Ill never forget, on my thirteenth birthday, being absolutely blown away by Lees immortal ENTER THE DRAGON. I knew action movies well enough, as this was the heyday of pretenders to the throne like Jean-Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal, but ENTER THE DRAGON, coupled with Lees electric persona and presence, just rocked my world. Within a week, I was enrolled in Martial Arts classes, which I continued throughout high school. I didnt have the best high school experience, but having a great outlet like the Karate classes I was enrolled in saw me through those difficult years. Thats why, to this day, I get very emotional just thinking about Lee, and no other actor has ever influenced me in the way he did.
Suffice to say, Im an easy mark for a film like I AM BRUCE LEE. Despite the somewhat misleading title, its not a straight biography, as its more interested in his enduring legacy than his life, or even his films. Dont expect much in the way of juicy details from behind the scenes of THE BIG BOSS, or anything like that, although theres still a general rundown of his life. Its just far from exhaustive.
One thing that is interesting is that Lees early life as a child star in Hong Kong, which is rarely talked about, is examined here complete with some rare clips. Its funny to think of him this way, but as one of the interviewees states, Lee was a big star in the early fifties- even comparing him to Macaulay Culkin. Its really when he left for San Francisco (he was actually born an American citizen)- and started teaching the forbidden Chinese techniques that things got interesting, and his early efforts starring on THE GREEN HORNET are examined. The film relies heavily on an old interview Lee gave to the CBC early in his career, where he waxed philosophical on his martial arts prowess, and here he dismisses his work for HORNET- saying it was silly. Hes right.
A lot of the film dwells on Lees Jeet Kun Do, which was a specialized version of Wing Chun (his teacher was none other than Master IP MAN, who Donnie Yen recently starred as in two awesome, highly fictionalized biopics), combined with western boxing and fencing. Here, many UFC fighters, including Gina Carano, point to Lee as the father of MMA, although this is disputed by many other interviewees. The most interesting guy turns out to be MODERN FAMILYs Ed ONeil, who it turns out is a devoted MMA student- and rightly points out that wrestler Gene LeBell (who Lee fought numerous times on THE GREEN HORNET) was the real innovator.
All of this is pretty interesting, and Ive got to hand it to director Pete McCormack (who also helmed the great FACING ALI doc from a few years ago) for taking a different approach to the subject. Its extremely fast paced (it fits in nicely with the aesthetics of producer Spike TV), and certainly never boring. The archive footage in excellent and many of the interviews are very enlightening. Its a good entry point for someone who doesnt really know about Lee, and hopefully the younger generation that will be watching this will immediately head-out and pick up the Blu-ray of ENTER THE DRAGON. As they point out in the doc, Lee really was an iconic figure along the lines of Elvis Presley, and Muhammad Ali. Its nice to see hes still getting his due.
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|Extra Tidbit:||While a fun romp, DRAGON: THE BRUCE LEE STORY is complete bullshit.|