Review: Enter the Dragon – 40th Anniversary Edition / Cert: 18 / Director: Robert Clouse / Screenplay: Michael Allin / Starring: Bruce Lee, John Saxon, Jim Kelly / Release Date: Out now
Bruce Lee was perhaps the most charismatic martial arts movie star who ever lived and his loss is still felt 40 years later. Enter the Dragon would have been his big breakthrough into Hollywood and would have brought him to a larger audience had he not died before its release.
This chopsocky classic finds three characters including Roper (Saxon), Williams (Kelly) and Lee (Lee) heading to an island off Hong Kong to take part in a martial arts tournament held by the reclusive and dangerous Han (Shih Kien). Lee has been sent in to spy and gather information and also has a mission of vengeance as Han killed his sister. The other two are there for fortune and glory but find themselves thrown together in a bid to survive.
The problem with martial arts action cinema is that it dates rather quickly. Every five years or so something comes along that blows all previous efforts out of the water with its extreme stunts and choreography. Enter the Dragon has not aged well; Bruce Lee is still incredibly charismatic and agile but the fights consist of mainly punches and kicks and it seems rather quaint in these days of films like The Raid which really push the boundaries of stunt and fight choreography. The movie also takes forever to get going. Rather than concentrating on Lee like it should, we get John Saxon’s uninteresting character and Jim Kelly’s rather wooden outlaw – both there, you feel, to pad out the running time. Having said that, the final 30 minutes is impressive stuff and fairly inventive for the time it was made. The hi-def restoration is impressive and the film has a wonderful retro score by Lalo Schifrin which still stands up. The film is worth seeing purely for the presence of Bruce Lee who is frankly amazing even in scenes where he just gives a lackey an evil look for chiding him about not wearing a uniform.
The Blu-ray has really been put together nicely, with an exhaustive package to mark the 40th anniversary of the film. Kudos to Warner Bros for taking the time and care with what is sure to be a bundle that fans will love. It’s just a shame that the film no longer really stands up in modern times.
Extras: No Way as Way / The Return to Hans Island / Wing Chun: The Art that introduced Kung Fu to Bruce Lee / Commentaries / Blood and Steel – The Making of Enter the Dragon / Bruce Lee in his own words / Linda Lee Caldwell interviews / Location – Hong Kong with Enter the Dragon / Backyard Workout with Bruce Lee / The Curse of the Dragon