MovieBob Reviews BIRTH OF THE DRAGON

first_img Is Birth of The Dragon good?Nope.What’s it about?It’s a Bruce Lee biopic – sort of.Care to elaborate on “sort of?”The big idea at play here is to tell a fictionalized account of a one-on-one fight that took place in secret between Bruce Lee and Wong Jack Man. He was a Northern Shaolin and Xingyiquan Master in 1964 San Francisco widely considered to be a life-changing moment for Lee himself and the development of the entire global competitive martial-arts culture since.Wait. This actually happened? Because the trailers look a little far fetched…It’s… complicated. The fight actually did happen, but (like basically everything else about Bruce Lee) pretty much everything about it other than “they fought and Lee won” has been lost to history, shrouded in legend and obscured by differing accounts. The most popular version of the legend is that Wong Jack Man had been dispatched from China by a consortium of old-school Martial-Arts Masters to punish Lee for going against tradition by teaching their ancient secret fighting techniques to Westerners. That doesn’t seem to have been the case. But what’s generally agreed upon is that having to even more radically adapt his already evolving Wing Chun fighting-style on the fly to counter Wong’s more elaborate Northern Shaolin techniques inspired Lee to develop his own signature style. “Jeet Kune Do;” which is today claimed (among other things) as a direct precursor to so-called “Mixed Martial Arts” schools of fighting.So that’s what the movie is about?Nah. The movie is about a fictional white guy who was friends with Bruce Lee and was around when this all happened.…come again?Yeah. So, our main character in the BRUCE LEE ORIGIN MOVIE (really!) is some guy named Steve played by Billy Magnussen (who I think I’m supposed to remember from playing Kato Kaelin on that O.J. miniseries?). He’s a student of Lee’s Chinatown-based Wing Chun school who also becomes friends with the newly-arrived in Frisco Wong Jack Man because… Actually, it’s never clear why he decides to be best-buddies with Wong or why he gets all torn up about the dueling philosophies of his two “masters” – it just kind of happens so he can be the center of the story.Why does he need to be?Because the big conceit they’ve decided to hang the film on is that Wong didn’t actually want to fight Bruce Lee – he was really in America doing spiritual penance for accidentally almost killing an exhibition opponent by using a forbidden secret technique. But Steve has fallen in love with a Chinese immigrant girl being held as an indentured servant by the Chinatown Mafia and the only way to secure her freedom turns out to be convincing the two Masters to fight so they can take bets.lDoes this have ANYTHING to do with Bruce Lee?The angle here is this version of Bruce Lee is a cocky showboat who hasn’t really figured out how to “be” Bruce Lee – i.e., he’s got the talent but hasn’t gotten is ego under control. Somehow, Wong has intuited that Lee will become the greatest kung-fu master ever, so he does the fight to help teach him to unlock his true superhuman potential. Oh, then they both team up to save Steve’s girlfriend from the bad guys.That sounds really dumb.It is.Are there any redeeming qualities?The big fight itself is actually very well done. I mean, if you have to only get ONE thing right, that’d be the one. Philip Ng isn’t really great as Bruce, but he’s an accomplished fight-choreographer professionally, and he looks good in action – and I was genuinely impressed to learn that Xia Yu (who plays Wong) doesn’t actually have a martial-arts background because he certainly comes off like a pro here. But, otherwise, it’s a complete wash – skip it.Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey. MovieBob Reviews: ‘Shadow’MovieBob Reviews: ‘The Curse of La Llorona’ Stay on targetlast_img read more