The Name's Lee, Bruce Lee
It's strange to think that in his short career Bruce Lee didn't make that many movies or at least not that many which could be classed as mainstream yet he left such a powerful legacy. Without Bruce Lee giving us the likes of "Fists of Fury" and "Enter the Dragon" martial arts movies may never have made it into the world of being main stream and we might not have then had the likes of Jackie Chan and Jet Li making so many wonderful martial arts movies. But when you watch "Enter the Dragon" now you sort of end up questioning why it became such a popular movie because it's corny and cheesy in places and has a storyline which is for the most inconsequential. But it did become popular and although it has some major weaknesses it's still hugely entertaining.
Whilst teaching martial arts at a Shaolin Temple, Lee (Bruce Lee) is approached by a special agent asking him to help them bring down a criminal known as Han by collecting evidence of criminal activity whilst attending Han's martial arts tournament on his excluded island. Agreeing to help out Lee heads to the island where he meets fellow competitors Roper (John Saxon) and Williams (Jim Kelly). But it soon becomes apparent to all three of them that Han's tournament is no ordinary one and have to fight to get off the island alive.
Taken wholly as a serious movie "Enter the Dragon" really does have one terribly weak storyline. We get this build up where we have this crime lord Han on his private island with a law enforcement Agency wanting to get proof of criminal activities and so talk Lee, yes Bruce Lee's character is called Lee, in to becoming there man on the inside whilst competing in a martial arts tournament on the island. It almost sounds like something from a James Bond movie, the criminal mastermind, his stronghold of an island and just to add to the Bond like element Han happens to have a false hand, a bunch of henchmen, oh and a white cat.
But in all honesty none of that is important nor are any of the build ups we get to various characters such as fellow martial artist Roper having gambling debts or that Williams is a ladies man because "Enter the Dragon" is really about one thing and that are the various martial arts scenes. As such it's a wonderful movie opening with Bruce Lee giving a demonstration of his skills and it never stops as you are barely a few minutes before you get another moment of action. And it has to be said the action is brilliant especially from the nimble Lee who skips his way around various bad guys, flicking a punch so fast it's frightening and dispatching with hoards of baddies all by himself.
As such "Enter the Dragon" is a movie full of memorable scenes especially the big fight scene in the room of mirrors, which now has a legendary status. But there are others, the scene where Lee dispatches a baddie; flying through the air to land either side of his head is marvellous to watch. What makes these scenes so good is that between Bruce Lee's quickness and confidence and the camera techniques it all looks impressive, delivers speed and beautifully crafted slow motion action in abundance. It makes it all look so cool and although some of the action borders on the corny with bad guys stumbling around in an often over the top way you just become grasped by it all.
What is surprising is that for a movie which really has quite a pointless storyline and frankly not a huge amount of dialogue, I doubt Bruce Lee says more than 200 words in the whole movie it does deliver characters. Bruce Lee just oozes cool as the almost silent Lee, the confidence, the Zen like state and just the way he holds himself in scenes makes him such a great character. But at the same time John Saxon delivers a believable character as Roper the gambler, you really believe that here is a man who spies a betting opportunity at every moment and Jim Kelly is great as the jive talking Williams, creating a character of equal coolness as Lee.
But the thing is watching "Enter the Dragon" now there is a corniness to it all, the dialogue borders on the humorous despite being serious and as already mentioned some of the action scenes and the accompanying sound effects are really quite laughable. Although it's still hugely entertaining for the right reasons rather than being so bad it's good.
What this all boils down to is that "Enter the Dragon" is still a wonderful martial arts movie from a time when there were really no main stream martial arts movies. It is a little corny watching it now but although the action is dated it's just wonderful to watch the lightning fast Bruce Lee in action accompanied by some adequate performances from John Saxon and Jim Kelly.