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.
Coming up to the 40th anniversary of Bruce Lee's death, so a celebration is surely worthwhile.
There's about 30 decent minutes here. The rest is various pugilists/bad boys/pop singers bigging themselves up.
Baggy, braying and kinda unhelpful, this one is strictly for paid-up Lee lovers.