Starring: Bruce Li, Chang Leih, John Cheung, Yin-Chieh Han, Bolo Yeun, and Dana Lei
Director: Kuen Yeung
Rating: Four of Ten Stars
A pair of Hong Kong police inspectors, Dragon and Wang (Li and Leih), must break the counterfeiting ring of local crimelord Han (Han) before he completes a deal with Japanese organized crime and floods Hong Kong and Japan with fake United States dollars. Bands of Kung Fu fighters wait to beat on them around every corner, however. And a femme fatale (Lei) strips naked every chance she has.
"The Image of Bruce Lee" has a razor thin plot that exists only to get the main characters from one fight scene to the next. Unless you're watching the film because you're interested in staged martial arts fights, you're going to start getting bored after the second or third, because most of them are just like the one that happened a few minutes before. (Only two of the combats are remotely interesting--one where a Japanese gangster (played by Bolo Yeun) takes on a bunch of Chinese hoods while using a pair of handcuffs as a slashing weapon, and another where Bruce Li take on the same gang of thugs a little later and ends up in a battle that seems like an early version of the sort of Prop Fu material that Jackie Chan would make his trademark a few years later. The rest just aren't all that good, even taking into account the period this movie dates from.)
An even bigger problem than the lackluster fight scenes is the fact that what little story we have is as boring as they are. Not only boring, but badly constructed. Li and Leih (Police Inspectors Dragon and "Moustache" Wang) have got to be the very worst inspectors in all of Hong Kong, as they can't tail a suspect without getting spotted and getting into a fight, they can't conduct surveillance without getting spotted and getting into a fight, and they can't ask a suspect to come down to the station without violating all sorts of police procedures and getting into a fight. If played for laughs--and the film's opening scene makes you think that you're actually in for a comedy--these incompetent boobs might have made for amusing viewing, but this film takes itself so seriously that it doesn't even feature the Standard Issue Comic Relief Character that seemed to be a must in films from this period. Although, I suppose the slutty femme fatale from England (whose clothes came off to treat the viewer to some full-frontal nudity whenever the film got really boring) might vaguely fill that slot. But not quite. This is one humorless movie... despite the fact the man bad guy's gimmick is the throw silver coins so hard they embed themselves deeply in wood and might thus presumable kill someone, even if he never shown doing so.)
Actually, the opening scene is probably the best part of the movie. Dragon scales the side of a building to save a man who is about to commit suicide, because he lost his business and reputation because of the counterfeiting ring Dragon will soon be called upon to break. Dragon's attempt ends in a blackly humorous way that didn't set the tone for the film, but should have.
All in all, "The Image of Bruce Lee" is one that you should probably avoid looking at. Of course, it could also be that this is a police comedy/martial arts spoof of the magnitude of "Hot Fuzz" that I just didn't get because I'm not as well-versed in Chinese culture as I am in English. It could be, but I don't think so... I think this is just an ineptly made film.
(By the way, the title is drawn from a single line in the film, when its suggested that Inspector Dragon should become an actor because he looks like Bruce Lee. While I don't think he looks very much like Bruce Lee, Bruce Li DID spend much of his career in Bruceplotation movies. This is not one of those, so I suspect that line was an attempt at levity... that got the film turned into a Bruceploitation movie when it was exported to America. There are no images of Bruce Lee that I noticed anywhere in the film. Although it would have made for a better movie if the gangsters were counterfeiting limited edition Bruce Lee collector plates or some-such.)