Thursday, December 03, 2015

Enter the Dragon

Directed by Robert Clouse and Bruce Lee and written by Lee and Michael Allin, Enter the Dragon is the story of a martial arts expert who travels to attend an invitational tournament as he goes undercover to uncover some crimes as well as find the man who killed his sister. The film isn’t just a suspense-mystery where a man tries to uncover a dark plot from a crime boss but also a film that is filled with lots of action led by its star Bruce Lee. Also starring John Saxon, Ahna Capri, Jim Kelly, Bolo Yeung, Robert Wall, and Shih Kein. Enter the Dragon is an enthralling and gripping film from Robert Clouse and Bruce Lee.

Invited to take part in a secret tournament along with many martial arts master, the film revolves around a master who is asked to go undercover to attend the tournament where he would uncover many secret things by its organizer as well as find the man who killed his sister. While it is a story that is quite simple, it plays into a man who isn’t seeking vengeance but also restore honor into the Shaolin temple he was trained at and stop this man from unleashing evil into the world. The film’s script doesn’t just play into the motivation of Lee (Bruce Lee) who knows not whom he has to go after in this crime lord named Han (Shih Kein) but also what Han had done that has brought disgrace to the temple Lee trains at. Joining Lee are two Americans who both enter the tournament to hide from their own problems back home as they hope to find some redemption yet become suspicious of what Han is doing. Even as the script reveals what must be done prompting Lee to stop Han once and for all.

The film’s direction by Robert Clouse not only captures the energy of the action as well as knowing how to create intrigue and drama that occurs on the film. Especially in how he establishes the motivations of the characters in the film and why they’re in the tournament like Roper (John Saxon) and Williams (Jim Kelly) though Lee’s motivation is broadened more not just through flashbacks but also in the film’s opening sequence as the latter is directed by Bruce Lee. Clouse’s usage of wide shots for the scenes in Hong Kong would add to the tone of the film as it’s very exotic but also entrancing despite some of the darker moments that goes on inside Han’s house. Even in some of the intimate moments that play into the suspense and drama while there are a few moments that are light-hearted.

For the fight scenes which were choreographed by Lee, Clouse knows where to place the camera for the scenes where he uses a few close-ups but also some medium and wide shots to establish the setting and locations. Clouse also knows when to build the tension for the suspense such as the film’s climax that includes a showdown between Lee and Han inside a mirrored room. It’s definitely one of the most gripping sequences captured on film where it’s a room full of mirrors as it’s about where the enemy is and who will strike. More importantly, it ponders where the camera is shot and how the hell the camera or the cameraman was able to not be seen in the mirror which only makes the sequence even more astonishing. Overall, Clouse and Lee create an exciting and engaging film about a man who goes to a tournament to kick ass and save the world from corruption and evil.

Cinematographer Gilbert Hubbs does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography from the usage of lights for some of the interior scenes at the prison to the lights for the scenes set at night. Editors Yao Chung Chang, Kurt Hirschler, and George Watters do amazing work with the editing as it features some unique rhythms for the fights and knowing when to cut for a certain moment of action as well as the usage of stylish transition for the flashback sequences. Art director Shen Chien does brilliant work with the set design from the home of Han and his many rooms including the room of mirrors as well as the prison and factory where he does his secret work.

Costume designer Sheng-Hsi Chu does nice work with the costumes from the look of the men in what they wear to the clothes the women wear where they please the men. The sound work of Ping Wong is superb as much of it is post-production work that features some sound effects in the kicks and hits as well as in some of the moments that occur in Han‘s underground prison/factory. The film’s music by Lalo Schifrin is fantastic with its mixture of jazz, orchestral music, and funk as it plays into the energy of the film as well as some of its suspense as it’s definitely a major highlight of the film.

The film’s incredible cast features appearances from such future martial arts icons as Sammo Hung as the man Lee fights in the opening sequence, Pat E. Johnson as a mob hood trying to kill Roper, and Jackie Chan as a prison thug who tries to attack Lee. Other notable small roles include Peter Archer as a New Zealand fighter named Archer, Angelo Mao as Lee’s sister, Betty Chung as a spy named Mei Ling who works undercover as one of Han’s women, Geoffrey Weeks as a British government agent named Braithwaite, Roy Chiao as Lee’s Shaolin master, and Bolo Yeung as one of Han’s top fighters in Bolo. Robert Wall is terrific as Han’s bodyguard O’Hara who is the man that likes to intimidate people as he is also the man who killed Lee’s sister. Ahna Capri is wonderful as Han’s assistant Tania who falls for Roper while being the one to lead the women into sleeping with the men.

Jim Kelly is fantastic as Williams as this African-American activist who is on the run after beating some racist policeman as he’s a man that is cool and knows how to kick some ass. Shih Kien is superb as Han as this crime lord that doesn’t seem intimidating until he proves to be a formidable fighter with a special handicap that allows him to beat his opponents as his voice is dubbed by Keye Luke. John Saxon is excellent as Roper as this gambling playboy who flees to Hong Kong over debt payments as he is a man that likes a good time until he learns more about what Han does. Finally, there’s Bruce Lee in a magnificent performance as Lee as this man who is a true master in martial arts as he strives to do what is right in the world while avenging his sister and bring honor back to his temple. Even as Lee proves to be a complete and total badass without the need to do much as he just lets his skills do the talking as it is an iconic performance from the legend.

Enter the Dragon is a phenomenal film from Robert Clouse and Bruce Lee that features an outstanding performance from Lee in one of his final film roles. The film isn’t just one of the finest films of the martial arts genre but also an adventurous film that has a lot of action, suspense, humor, and drama rolled into one. Even as it takes a story that is very simple and make it bigger to get audiences excited to see guys kick some ass. In the end, Enter the Dragon is a spectacular film from Robert Clouse and Bruce Lee.

Related: The Big Boss - Fist of Fury - The Way of the Dragon - Game of Death

© thevoid99 2015


Brittani Burnham said...

Crap, I should've put this film on my Blind Spot list. I think I meant to. Great review, I'm a little ashamed I haven't seen this yet.

thevoid99 said...

YOU NEED TO SEE THIS! This is the film of the martial arts/kung fu genre that everyone should see. SEE IT NOW!!!

ruth said...

Great review Steven! Man, I was gonna see Enter the Dragon after I saw a film about Bruce Lee and they showed a clip of him in the film, but I really should watch this one pronto. Bruce Lee is a true legend, and he's charismatic beyond just his martial arts skills.

thevoid99 said...

@ruth-This films is essential for everyone. This was the first film of Bruce Lee that I've seen and man, it still holds up. Bruce is a fucking legend and no one will equal to his brilliance. Not even that fat tubby bitch Steven Seagal. I can kick that guy's ass.

Dell said...

I think you already know my love of the film, so I just applaud you for giving it a glowing review.

thevoid99 said...

@Wendell-I was expecting a comment from you as I know you love this film as well. It's such a masterpiece. It is the standard bearer for all martial arts films. Boards don't hit back.