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Enter the Dragon


Director: Robert Clouse

Stars: Bruce Lee, John Saxon, Jim Kelly, Shek Kin, Bolo Yeung, Bob Wall

A kung-fu master (Lee) is asked by the Hong Kong government to infiltrate a martial arts tournament, which is actually a front for drug smuggling. He agrees after he finds out that the gang members killed his sister. During the tournament, he meets up with a gambler down on his luck (Saxon) and a black karate master (Kelly), who reluctantly end up aiding Lee.

A lot of people call this one of the best (if not the best) martial arts film of all time. I like the movie, but I wouldn't go that far. While it does stand above many other films, Enter the Dragon is just lacking that certain something. The movie loses itself in subplots with the Saxon and Kelly characters -- does anyone actually believe John Saxon could kick Bolo Yeung's ass? I suspect the only reason so much emphasis was put on these characters was to give the movie more "crossover" appeal (just think of the pairing of Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker in Rush Hour). There's also a lot of unnecessary nudity; I have nothing against nudity, it's just that the scenes that involve it here grind the movie to a halt. Finally, the "revenge for a family member" plot was tired even back in the '70's. This wouldn't be such a bad thing, but the script is so horrible and Clouse seems to be sleepwalking as director, it comes off as really no better than those countless "Kung-Fu Theatre" movies (at least in the storytelling department).

However, in the action department, Enter the Dragon certainly delivers. Warner Bros. wisely decided to let Lee direct all the fight sequences, and they're outstanding. Every time I start to bitch about the things stated above, once I see Lee beating the hell out of everyone, I remember why I like the movie. The final brawl is a true classic which very few films have matched since then. On the acting side, Lee is also great; his stern, dignified performance stands out, especially when compared with other martial arts "actors" like Van Damme. He really did have a lot of talent in both realms of fighting and acting, and Enter the Dragon showcases them. So, while it's not a perfect movie, Enter the Dragon is a fitting testament to Lee's legacy.


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