Monday, May 2, 2011

One of Bruce Lee's best efforts

The Chinese Connection (aka "Fist of Fury") (1972)
Starring: Bruce Lee, James Tien, Nora Miao, and Riki Hashimoto
Director: Lo Wei
Rating: Eight of Ten Stars

A martial arts student (Lee) goes on a murderous rampage against a corrupt Japanese martial arts dojo to avenge the death of his teacher and the loss of honor to his school.

"The Chinese Connection" is one of the best martial arts movies and revenge flicks ever made. There is no Wire Fu, no trick photography, and no stunt doubles standing in for the lead actor. Also, while the viewer shares in the hero's brutal revenge against the Japanese scum-dogs, there is never any doubt throughout the picture that Bruce Lee's character Chen is giving up his soul and lowering himself to the level of those he has set out to destroy. When Chen's quest for revenge reaches its inevitable conclusion--with the destruction not only of his enemies but also himself--we've been treated to a well-crafted polemic against racism and cycles of revenge and violence.

Like so many Chinese movies of its day, this one features Japanese villains of the darkest and most vile sort, but unlike most of the others, this movie takes a more complex stand than just "Japanese Bad and Perverted, Chinese Good and Virtuous". And this makes it an imminently watchable movie, even in this day and age of overly hysterical attitudes toward portrayals of racism and bigotry in fiction and movies.

The superior quality of the story and the great acting performances not only from Bruce Lee but every single member of the cast are such that they can even overcome one of the very worst dubbing jobs I've experienced since renting my first Kung Fu movies with friends from the local grocery store some 30 years ago. Not only was the English tortured in many cases, but the entire cast was dubbed by what may have been one single actor. Lee's voice characterized as laughably deep, and he did the women by speaking in a high-pitched falsetto, while everyone in between sounded roughly similar to one another.

But, even with the eccentric dubbing, this was a very entertaining film. The fight scenes are cool and fast-moving, and Lee's methods for stalking and killing the students and hirelings of the Japanese dojo were amusing and a little scary at the same time. But always, ultimately mercilessly brutal.

"The Chinese Connection" was Bruce Lee's second feature film, and it rightly solidified him as an international superstar. If he had continued to involve himself with such high quality projects as this one, he would have gone onto becoming a movie legend of a stature that not even Jackie Chan managed to achieve. Action movie lovers truly lost out when an allergic relation to an over-the-counter medication killed Lee in 1973, but at least he left us with a small number of great films. Including this one, which is so great that not even pathetic dubbing can ruin it.

No comments:

Post a Comment