Enter the Dragon

Enter the Dragon ★★★★½

The legendary martial artist Bruce Lee is called upon by the police to go undercover and enter an elite martial arts tournament on an island run by an iron-fisted overlord. If you've never seen a martial arts movie, particularly for fight choreographed scenes, never seen a Bruce Lee movie, this is the gold standard. Lee rocks this movie with his serpent fast karate moves. He jumps, strikes and hits with vicious and yet artful style. Sure, the hit sounds are cheesy and overplayed, but this movie created widespread interest in this genre in America.

We never really get to know any bad guys that well other than the main antagonist Han, who runs the island and, it turns out, has a secret illegal operation going on that the martial arts is a mere annual hobby of his. Han is also a martial artist, but he's used the craft against teachings.

Also starring John Saxon as Roper and Jim Kelly as Williams, they are competing in the tournament, too. Roper's character is probably the second most attempt at depth in that he's in financial debt and looking to win the tournament and change his fortunes.. They do not fight against Bruce Lee, however, they are pitted against a bunch of random Asian bad guys, except for Bolo Yeung, who would have something of a movie career as well. Oh, and Bob Wall is also in the movie as O'hara. He also has a bit of depth in that he did something bad to someone that Bruce Lee knows, so this sends up a tiny revenge subplot.

What keeps this film from five stars is the lack of any significant story or character depth beyond the awesome choreographed fighting. How is any character changed in this movie by the events happening on the island? It's good guys in a tournament on an island vs. bad guys with a secret illegal operation. There isn't much more to it.

On the plus side, it's actually one of the deeper martial arts stories in that at least there is a clear storyline and not as badly English dubbed as other movies. In fact, most is in English. For that reason, I'm only taking away a half star. Sound effects are good (the fake over accented hit sounds aside) and the music is fitting. Easy to see why this is a cult classic. Sadly, Bruce Lee was gone too soon or we would have gotten so many more great martial arts movies starring him. At least we have this one to watch. The fight scene with the hall of mirrors is worth watching/rewatching alone. Recommended.

Block or Report