Free Press Journal

Birth of the Dragon: Uninspiring biopic


Conspiracy theories abound about whether the legendary Bruce Lee was murdered at age 32 back just before the release of his last movie Enter the Dragon. He was after all, an Asian who had taken the US and the world by storm by sharing a martial art that the taciturn Chinese might have liked to keep secret. (Never mind that it originated in Kerala and was taken to China by Mallu traders) “Birth of the Dragon” screenwriters Christopher Wilkinson and Stephen J. Rivele’s biopic revolves  around the fabled encounter between Bruce Lee (Philip Ng) and Shaolin master Wong Jack Man (Xia Yu) in San Francisco in 1964

Lee comes across as a brash individual who wants to popularise king fu and make it in the movies. He reminded me of Ray “MacDonald” Croc in his ambition to make kung fu “bigger than Coca-Cola.” One of Lee’s students, Steve (Billy Magnussen) falls for waitress Xiulan Quan (Qu Jingjing) who just happens to have been trafficked to America by underworld “Auntie Blossom” (Xing Jin).

Wong is working as a lowly dishwasher as penance for a sin and doesn’t approve of Lee’s secularised teaching of what he believes is a spiritual process, to shallow Westerners. Ultimately, there is a showdown between Lee and Wong.

Though uninspiring, Birth of the Dragon succeeds in recreating this epic encounter which has Chinatown gangsters betting in millions of dollars. I had seen Enter the Dragon at the Eros. Or maybe, it was Regal. The Jackie Chan flicks I’d watched, on TV, were fun and time pass. Bruce Lee movies were all the rage then and the new generation, will hopefully, enjoy this movie too. But then again, they may not despite Corey Yuen’s artful combat interspersed with thought provoking messages.

Film: Birth of the Dragon

Cast: Philip Ng, Yu Xia, Billy Magnussen,Jingjing Qu, Simon Yin, Xing Jin, Darren E. Scott 

Director: George Nolfi 

Rating: * *