Movie Review - Jackie K Cooper
“Birth of the Dragon” (BH Tilt)
Hollywood has proven itself fascinated by the short life but major impact of martial arts master Bruce Lee. Although he died in his early thirties, Lee's influence has been considered a turning point in how Asians were portrayed in western made films. He was an icon whose legend only grew after his death. The film “Birth of the Dragon” is based on a fight between him and another Asian master Wong Jack Man that occurred in the '60's in San Francisco.
In the film Lee (Phillip Ng) is a much sought after teacher in San Francisco. Although he is working on a variety of projects, including a movie, he feels he is not getting the respect of the Asian masters of the martial arts. He believes this is because he teaches caucasians the martial arts and the Asian masters think it should not be taught outside their community.
When Wong Jack Man shows up in San Francisco, Lee is convinced he is there to bring pressure against him to comply with the Asian ideals. However when contacted by one of Lee's students, Steve McKee (Billy Magnussen), Wong Jack Man (Yu Xia) denies this charge and says he is in San Francisco to do penance for being overly assertive in a demonstration match in Asia. However Wong Jack Man is later persuaded to engage in a martial arts bout with Lee.
The lead up to the match, the match itself, and the aftermath are what comprise the bulk of the movie. It is all told interestingly and the actors are totally acceptable in their roles. The side story of McKee's involvement with an Asian women who is in the country in a form of indentured servitude is not as believable or as interesting.
Wong Jack Man and Bruce Lee come off as two men who are spectacularly skilled in the martial arts. They each have their own reasons for being so involved and it reflects their personalities and their core beliefs. When they do enter into the match it is both breathtakingly aggressive and overall beautiful in concept and performance.
It helps that the two lead actors are virtually unknown to the moviegoing public. They are Wong Jack Man and Bruce Lee in this film and the audience accepts them as that. The movie states the film is based on an actual occurrence but the details of why the match occurred are open to interpretation. This movie takes a position and sticks with it while history reveals other theories have been advanced.
The film is rated PG-13 for profanity and violence.
One thing is certain, Lee and Wong Jack Man did fight each other. That fact alone makes for a good story – and in this case a good movie. If you are a fan of Bruce Lee or just the martial arts in general “Birth of the Dragon” is a film you will want to see.
I scored “Birth of the Dragon” ” a fire breathing 6 out of 10.o
Jackie K Cooper - www.jackiekcooper.com