I Am Bruce Lee Review

Film Still
  • I Am Bruce Lee film still


Pete McCormack's standard issue Bruce Lee hagiography is not a film that will shine brightly on the big screen.

Looking like it clawed its way out of an early bird slot on one of Channel 5's digital subsidiaries, Pete McCormack's standard issue Bruce Lee hagiography is not a film that will shine brightly on the big screen.

With the participation of Lee's widow, extended family, friends, trainers and a plethora of miscellaneous Lee freaks, the film examines the iconic dancer-actor-writer-fighter's career, initially as a martial arts instructor, and later as the world's foremost Chinese-American movie star. All this before he died, mysteriously, tragically, in 1973 at the tender age of 32.

The film is constructed around a fascinating interview Lee conducted for The Pierre Berton Show in 1975 in which he elegantly (and occasionally pretentiously) pontificates on fighting, stardom and his Zen-like personal life philosophies.

While there's no mistaking the fact that Lee led a fascinating and ethically conflicted life, constantly the butt of both institutional and street-level racism, the film is nothing more than a glossy circle-jerk in which the talking heads take their love of Lee as an excuse to talk about themselves.

The valuable testimony given by Lee's wife helps us to comprehend the actor's conflicted lifestyle and his rabid desire for success, but's it's all-but-annulled by the bubble-headed contributions from the likes of Black Eyed Peas founder-member, Taboo, talking about his 'revolutionary' on-stage stance, and Mickey Rourke, who seems happy to gab about his "wild years". Indeed, hearing how Rourke was inspired by Enter the Dragon to relinquish his trusty pistol in favour of nunchucks as his primary form of defence make you feel that McCormack maybe made the wrong documentary.

Beneath all the insufferable toadying, the film does manage to touch on a few issues of note, namely the question of why American cinema was so resistant to the casting Asian actors in lead roles (Vietnam?) and the socio-political significance of Lee's infamous stand-off with an ultra-hursuit Chuck Norris in Way of the Dragon.

Yet, the film could've done with a few naysayers. Not those who were anti Bruce Lee, per se, but just one or two descenting voices who could argue against the taken-as-red notion of fighting as an honourable, poetic and expressive act. Indeed, there's a portion of the film that strays off into a quasi-fascistic celebration of cage fighting and mixed martial arts, and it makes for pretty replant viewing seeing a stream of slathering hard-asses praising Lee for supposedly instigating this sport.

The films, too, are only spoken of in terms of Lee's athleticism. Rarely are they praised as worthy additions to the canon of martial arts cinema, and us such, the film not only fails in terms of editorial balance, but it also doesn't make you want to investigate Lee's oeuvre any further.

View 5 comments


3 years ago
You are a complete idiot who should not be writing anything full stop...and no, I'm not some die-hard Bruce Lee fan.
But what are you going on about: "quasi-fascistic celebration of cage fighting and mixed martial arts, and it makes for pretty replant viewing seeing a stream of slathering hard-asses praising Lee for supposedly instigating this sport..."
MMA has nothing to do with racism and certainly has nothing to do with fascism. If it had then how come you see white, black and asian competitors?
MMA is not one martial art is a MIX of different arts. Different gyms teach different arts as their 'Way'. But all of them are teaching trad arts such as Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, Sambo wrestling and Greco-Romano Wrestling as well as Karate, kickboxing and many others...and people who do martial arts are far far less likely to be violent to others...just this week alone three Cambodian martial artists stopped a jewellers being robbed in California at gunpoint saving the owner's life, and a few weeks ago two MMA fighters (fascists in your book) stopped a hotel being robbed at gunpoint. Would they have done that if they had not been trained? Your website is well named: LITTLE WHITE LIES...


3 years ago
Accurate review. This "documentary" was an insult to Bruce Lee's memory, suggesting he's responsible for UFC and using his name to promote it in this fashion was shameless. This is coming from an amateur kickboxer with nothing against martial arts. UFC is little more than a bloodsport to entertain men with aggression problems. That aside, besides his family and friends nobody here says anything worth hearing about Bruce Lee, they all just use it as an excuse to prattle on about their own irrelevant careers and lives.


3 years ago
He said a quasi-fascistic celebration, i.e. the celebration was quasi (resembling) fascism, in how it was delivered (forced down your throat). You've taken something so obviously figurative as literal and had a giant rant about it, who's the idiot?


3 years ago
There are documentaries of one's life and there is pure inflated hype over people that adored and loved the person. This film does not really give me the meat of who and what Bruce Lee was like as a man. His wife's account and daughter felt very honest and truthful. However, the wannabe Bruce Lees were a joke, literally, druggie and alcoholic Mickey Rourke what does he know of the purity of what Lee was about and his teaching. He was doing his drugs, busting heads on the mean streets of Miami and looking to become the boxing legend he never gained. But it's a protective film, carefully supervised by Lee's family.


3 years ago
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