I’ve never seen a film starring Bruce Lee. My lack of knowledge in such a large field of film is quite embarrassing, especially considering I’ve always heard such great things about the career of Lee. An action icon, a hero for many thanks to a period of films that looked to bring out the art of kung-fu. Enter the Dragon is my entrance into the work of Lee, a man who, until now, I thought had appeared in countless more films. Knowing of his influence before actually taking part or interacting with his filmography feels wrong but unavoidable, Kill Bill’s homage turned borderline theft of Game of Death and its costume designs is one of the many cultural impacts the work of Lee had. Enter the Dragon, then, is rather underwhelming.
Thankfully it’s still a solid film. Following Lee (Bruce Lee) as he’s tasked with spying on a crime lord at a martial arts tournament, the plot never gets more complex than that. We’re dropped into the film, shown clearly who is good and who is bad, and then that’s it, enjoyable fights and shallow dialogue are to follow. The film is thoroughly enjoyable from scene to scene as we linger around through a solid abundance of engaging choreography. Nobody can deny the tremendous effort that goes into these fight scenes, but within Enter the Dragon they’re rather spread out, and once they appear on the screen, they really don’t stick around for all that long.
Most of the direction is happy to sacrifice interesting shot choices and the voice of its director to focus in fully on the fight scenes and tournament we happen upon. Aside from strong choreography and surprisingly good direction from Robert Clouse, there isn’t all that much on offer. The latter half of the film is by far the most engaging and interesting of all. Clouse manages to spread a handful of great scenes, the maze of mirrors a technical marvel for the time, and it still looks rather impressive all these years later.
What does surprise me though is that Lee doesn’t seem like that engaging of an actor. The legend that supersedes his credibility as a performer has become rather inundated. He’s more recognisable for his yellow jumpsuit in Game of Death than his ability to hold his own when it comes to dialogue. Still, it’s not what we go into these films for. We’re not here to be bogged down by performance or context, we just want to see some fight scenes, and that’s exactly what we receive. Lee is extremely entertaining when given the chance to shine, and I can only imagine it’ll get better and better as I dive further into his filmography.
Tremendous choreography and a simple enough story keep Enter the Dragon from falling apart under the weight of an uninteresting story. The film forms me a nice enough introduction into this genre, something I’ve never explored until now. Maybe I expected too much from a film about a crime lord entering into a martial arts competition, or perhaps I overestimated what the film had to offer. Either way, Enter the Dragon is a solid enough movie. Forgettable, but a lot of fun.