Tuesday, April 04, 2017

The Big Boss (1971 film)

Directed by Lo Wei and written by Lo Wei and Bruce Lee, The Big Boss is the story of a man who goes to Thailand to work with relatives at an icehouse where he learns what is really going on as he goes against drug lords. The film is a martial arts adventure in which a man goes on a quest for vengeance as well as try and do what is right for his family. Starring Bruce Lee, Maria Yi, James Tien, and Nora Miao. The Big Boss is an exhilarating and exciting film from Lo Wei.

The film is a simple story of a young man who goes to Thailand to find work where he is taken in by relatives with a promise to his mother that he would never fight. Yet, he is baffled by the disappearance of a few relatives who also work at the icehouse factory where they cut ice as they’re all unaware that it’s really a front for drug smuggling as its manager and foreman are working for a drug lord. The film’s screenplay by Lo Wei and Bruce Lee follows this protagonist in Cheng Chao-an (Bruce Lee) who is trying to redeem himself in front of his mother as he’s made a promise that he wouldn’t get into trouble. Even as he sees something going on where regular people are harassed where he’s forced to sit back and do nothing as he would also take hits and do nothing as a way to keep his promise. Still, when one of his cousins have disappeared and never returned forcing workers to ask questions. Cheng would force himself to step in but realize what is really going on after being promoted to foreman and be given the things that a foreman gets.

Lo Wei’s direction is quite straightforward in terms of its compositions with some element of style as it relates to the fight scenes. Shot on location in Thailand, the film has this tone that feels rural in its setting yet there is something that is also uneasy due to the fact that criminals are roaming around the streets and other things that are happening. Much of Wei’s compositions include some wide and medium shots for vast look of some of the fights while he would use some extreme close-ups for some of the confrontations involving Cheng and someone else whenever the former is put into a dire situation.

The elements of style isn’t just in the fight scenes but also in a sequence where Cheng is having dinner with the icehouse manager as it involves prostitutes and other shit as it’s quite comical but also surreal. The humor in the film is very lighthearted but also help advance the story whether Cheng is trying to win over a young lady or deal with a very ridiculous situation. The film’s climax is very exciting as it is about Cheng trying to do what is right for those who had been oppressed in the world of drugs and power. Overall, Wei creates a thrilling and fun film about a man beating up some bad guys.

Cinematographer Chan Ching-kui does excellent work with the film’s cinematography as it’s colorful in its low-grade film stock while bringing in some stylish light for some scenes set at night. Editor Sung Ming does brilliant work with the editing as it play into some of the rhythm of the action as well as some of its intensity where it is a major highlight of the film. Production designer Chu Liu does fantastic work with the look of the icehouse as well as the home Cheng would stay in with relatives who also work at the factory. The film’s music by Wang Fu-ling is superb for its mixture of orchestral themes but also some elements of rock and funk to play into the action and suspense.

The film’s marvelous cast include some notable small roles from Chan Chue as ice factory’s cruel foreman, Tu Chia-cheng as Cheng’s uncle Lu, Marilyn Bautista as a prostitute that Cheng meets at a dinner with the factory manager, Kam San as cousin Shan, Li Hua-sze as cousin Wong, Peter Yang as cousin Chen, Lam Ching-ying as cousin Yen, and Nora Miao as a local vendor that Cheng meets early in the film who is harassed by hoodlums. Tony Liu is terrific as the boss’ son Hsiao Chin who tries to go after the young woman Chiao Mei for his father while Han Ying-chieh is superb as the boss Hsiao Mi as a drug lord who is very skilled in kung fu and wants to rule Thailand. Lee Kwan is excellent as Cousin Kun who is critical of the conditions of the factory as he wants what is fair while James Tien is brilliant as Cousin Hsu Chien who is among the first to stand up against the people who run the factory as it relates to the disappearances.

Maria Yi is wonderful as Chiao Mei as Hsu Chien’s sister who is this sweet young woman that Cheng likes though it’s a typical damsel-in-distress kind of role. Finally, there’s Bruce Lee in a phenomenal performance as Cheng Chao-an as a simple man who arrives in town trying to be a good person and not get into fights. Yet, he is forced to watch and stay back from the action in a promise to his mother only to realize what is going on as he is aware of what he must do. It’s a performance that has Lee display a lot of charisma as well as kicking lots of ass.

The Big Boss is an incredible film from Lo Wei that features an iconic performance from Bruce Lee. It’s a martial-arts action-adventure film that does a lot in what is expected and more while also being this film where a man knows when there’s a time to fight for what is right. In the end, The Big Boss is a sensational film from Lo Wei.

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

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