REEL ACTION: The Big Boss (1971) starring Bruce Lee

Rating: 2 on 4 /
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Tagline: KARATE KUNG-FU! The oriental sensation now gives America the action it's been waiting for!

Directed by Wei Lo
Starring Bruce Lee, Maria Yi and James Tien

THE PLAN: Bruce Lee starts work at an Ice Factory that has all the workers disgruntled and unhappy. After whoopin’ some ass, he becomes foreman with a grand scheme to make life better. But when the truth of a couple of missing employees exposes his boss for who he really is, Lee loses his shit and opens a can of whoop ass that only he could deliver.

THE KILL: In the ‘70s, there was one man who was king of kicking ass—and that man was the great Bruce Lee. Not only was Lee a superb martial artist off screen, but the guy had incredible on-screen presence as well and even delivered a solid performance for each action flick he starred in. The guy’s a REEL ACTION legend on more than one level, thus diving into the man’s big-screen debut (for widespread American audiences anyway) with THE BIG BOSS aka FISTS OF FURY!

For the most part, THE BIG BOSS is a slow burn—but not the way that works for other ‘70s flicks. Mostly, there’s not a lot going on for the majority of the film. This is mostly due to Lee’s refusal (as a character) to fight, taking a vow and making a promise to his mother and his uncle to never fight again. So any scene early on when the opportunity to kick a fool in the face or backslap the shit out of someone presents itself, Lee walks away from the fight while clutching his promise necklace. Sure, this might make for an interesting storyline, but it also makes for a boring, if somewhat silly, movie. That said, there’s plenty of other ass-kicking going on besides Lee, but no one can hold a candle to his epic moves, thus looking fairly weeksauce in comparison.

However, the hold out and build up of Lee refusing to fight has its benefits, thus making the last half hour or so of THE BIG BOSS to be one helluva fist-flying good time. After waiting and waiting for Lee to get off his high horse and lay the smack-down, when he finally does… oh, it’s like reading a piece of poetry that’s so goddamn beautiful it’ll make you wanna cry. You’d think a single guy versus multipile sets of thugs and being outnumbered like 20 to 1 wouldn’t have a chance… but we’re talkin’ Bruce f*cking Lee here, so not only does he have a chance, but it’s the 20 other bitches who are going down—and go down they do! Flying kicks, round-house kicks, jabs and punches, broken broomsticks, and even an ice pick shows up in this motherf*cker when the shit starts to go down, and it’s so epic-ly awesome that it’ll make you forget the first ¾ of the movie was a (more or less) borefest.

And like most imported kung fu movies like this from the era, the film is laughably dubbed in English, adding to the overall charm and experience, and making it that much more entertaining. The dubbing makes “the big boss” and all of the other bad guys seem like goofy caricatures of what movie bad guys are supposed to be, and makes Lee’s friends and co-works seem like incompetent morons who have nothing better to do than get all butt-hurt if Lee goes out for a night of wine-and-dining. But again, this isn’t a movie to experience the eclecticness of the entire cast—it’s a movie to witness the kick-assery of Bruce Lee. And considering how this was his first movie, I can only imagine what it must have been like the first time he wiped the blood off his face after getting sucker punched, letting loose his uncompromising fury.

Bruce Lee was a martial arts master who not only knew all the right moves, but also had the talent to perform like no other—before or since. THE BIG BOSS is a great example of how his charisma and on-screen presence alone can make an otherwise boring movie where not a whole helluva lot happens entertaining and fun to watch. So while it may not be ENTER THE DRAGON, it’s still a kick-ass ride that shows exactly why, in a way, Lee is the boss of action stars.


TOP DEATH: After discovering what’s in the blocks of ice, Lee is confronted by a mob of thugs. Unlucky for them, Lee just happens to be armed with an ice pick, of which he uses to slice, dice, and stab a small gaggle of them with fatal results. Not so much as a “death” as it is “deaths”, doubling the film’s total body count. And death by ice pick is always a good time…

TOP ACTION SCENE: While there are small fights throughout with some of the workers, it’s not until Lee decides he can fight again does the film really take off. And while the sequence featured above in Best Deaths is impressive, it’s when he goes after the boss himself with a showdown at the boss’ estate does the shit hit the fan. So many flying kicks you don’t know what to do with yourself…

TOP HOMOEROTIC MOMENT: After a shirtless Lee kills the Big Boss in a straddled position, he collapses from exhaustion, laying fully man-love-style right on top of him. Nothing like a horizontal embrace by a couple of dudes to show how truly masculine you really are, right?

FEMALE EXPLOITATION: Surprisingly enough, yes! After a night of heavy drinking, an unconscious Lee gets molested and essentially date raped by a whore who has no problems getting topless. She shows up later for a brief flashing later on, filling the flick with an adequate amount of T (though not so much A).

Bruce Lee: Alright! Hold it! Now you get out of here, I'm warning you. You bastards can't push us around. If you wanna fight, I'll take you on.

DRINKING GAME: Every time one of Lee's goofy cousins / co-workers talks down to Lee's peaceful character, you have to drink!

TRIVIA:Upon its release in 1971, FISTS OF FURY was the highest grossing film in Hong Kong of all time.


Extra Tidbit: What's your favorite Bruce Lee movie?
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