Bruce Lee: A Warrior's Journey
Even after thirty-five years since his death, Bruce Lee remains one of the world's biggest movie stars. The cult status Lee almost immediately attained upon his passing in 1973 has assured a steady stream of specials and documentaries about the man and his life. Frankly, most of these have been cheap exploitative junk, made to make a quick buck on the strength of Lee's name. But there have been a few quality pictures made about Lee, and Bruce Lee: A Warrior's Journey stands as one of the best, if not the best, ever made.
The documentary is split into two parts. The first is a re-telling of Lee's life once he came to the US in the mid-1960's. Some may criticize the documentary for not giving any sort of information about Lee's early years. However, the style in which director John Little uses allows him to actually distill a lot of information about Lee without matters becoming rote and boring. Most notably, Little depends heavily on Lee himself, through early screen tests, interviews, and journals. It gives the movie a lot more authentic feel, and frankly makes some releases (like the bio-pic Dragon) look downright ridiculous.
The second part of the film centers on Lee's final released film, Game of Death. Before going to film Enter the Dragon, Lee spent several months coming up with the movie's script and shot a good deal of scenes. After his death, some of the footage Lee had shot was mixed in with shots using doubles, resulting in a picture that is still controversial with Lee fans to this day. The rest of the footage (as well as Lee's script and production notes) had thought to have been lost forever, until they were found in the early 1990's.
Little has put together the footage, along with a new soundtrack, and the results are what many consider to be Lee's true vision for the final three levels in the climatic pagoda fight. Even though the quality varies quite a bit during this sequence due to the deterioration of the original film stock, it's a very interesting look into what Game of Death might have been, had Lee lived long enough to finish filming and editing it. This in itself is more than enough to recommend a viewing of A Warrior's Journey. Chances are, though, that you'll also take away something new about the philosophy Bruce Lee put behind his martial arts, and that is perhaps this documentary's biggest strength.
Note: the movie is sold on its' own, or as an extra on the "special edition" DVD and Blu-Ray releases of Enter the Dragon (a review of the Blu-Ray version of ETD can be found here). All three versions are available from Amazon.
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