Enter the Dragon Review
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When Enter the Dragon burst onto American screens in 1973, it intended to accomplish two goals: to properly introduce American audiences to the frenetic action style of Hong Kong martial arts films and to finally make Bruce Lee as big a star in the West as he was in the East. It succeeded in both, though Leeís sudden death that same year meant that heíd never see it happen. Despite those unfortunate circumstances, Enter the Dragon remains a classic of the genre and Leeís last, biggest, and arguably best film.

The film charts a familiar course. Lee plays a Shaolin temple martial artist (conveniently also named Lee) who is asked by his temple and the British Intelligence Service to hunt down Han (Shih Kien), a former Shaolin member who left the temple to seek wealth and power in drugs and human trafficking. Every three years, Han holds a martial arts tournament on his private island. Along with two American fighters he meets along the way (John Saxon and Jim Kelly), Lee must infiltrate the tournament and put an end to Hanís criminal empire.

  
 
After unsuccessfully trying to break into Hollywood, Lee had returned to Hong Kong to star in a string of successful action films there. Heíd earned enough attention, though, for Warner Bros. to partner up with Chinese production company Golden Harvest to offer him a shot at a full, big-budget international action vehicle. The result is a film that combines the high-scale production value of Hollywood, the down-and-dirty action of Hong Kong, and a healthy dose of Leeís martial arts prowess and philosophy.

The film looks gorgeous, shot on location in Hong Kong and filled with local details and sets that provide striking backdrops for the action. Lee choreographed many of the fights himself, and he rewrote significant portions of the script to allow him to express his views on the nature of martial arts and Chinese culture. The filmís pacing ebbs and flows, taking time to set up the tournament and the various character relationships before erupting into fluidly choreographed violence.

The main draw, unquestionably, is Lee himself. While his character in the film isnít all that finely developed, the manís sheer physicality is riveting. Between the wiry muscles, whooping war cries, and fluidity of movement, itís easy to see how that performance drove up registration in kung fu and karate classes across the country. In a film bustling with iconography, he still manages to be the most arresting visual element on the screen.

The popularity of martial arts films in the West has remained strong since Enter the Dragon demonstrated their potential. That Bruce Lee never got the chance to follow up on this success is a tragedy. That he got it done at all and left such a grand legacy in the cinema is something to be celebrated and enjoyed for many more years to come.


Blu-ray Review:
The 40th Anniversary Ultimate Collectorís Edition of Enter the Dragon lives up to its lengthy title. The feature transfer does justice to the vibrant cinematography and action as well as Lalo Schifrinís jazzy score. It also includes the feature-length 1993 documentary Curse of the Dragon, as well as a collection of lengthy featurettes that cover everything from the making of the film to Leeís own history and kung fu philosophies. If you donít already have this film in your collection or want to upgrade, this release is a winner all around.

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