Friday, August 25, 2017

Way of the Dragon

Written, directed, and starring Bruce Lee, Way of the Dragon is the story of a martial artist who travels to Rome to help out a young woman and her uncle in dealing with the mob who are trying to buy their restaurant. The film is a mixture of action and comedy as it features Lee being the hero who is out there to take names and kick some ass. Also starring Nora Maio, Hwang In-shik, Robert Wall, and Chuck Norris. Way of the Dragon is a thrilling and exciting film from Bruce Lee.

The film revolves around a man who travels from Hong Kong to Rome to help a woman who knows his uncle as she is trying to save a restaurant from a local mob syndicate. It’s a film with a simple story yet it plays into a man, who is an outsider, trying to protect others from China who just wants to run a Chinese restaurant in Rome but this mob wants the restaurant for their own reasons. Bruce Lee’s screenplay follows the character of Tang Lung (Bruce Lee) who arrives in Rome to help out at this restaurant as he would also meet this mob syndicate that is trying to buy and intimidate those working at the place. While some of the people working at the restaurant, who also do karate, aren’t convinced he can help them deal with the mob. They do realize how strong he is and what he can do as they’re willing to learn kung-fu instead of karate as a way to stand up against this syndicate. Even as Tang befriends Chen Ching-hua (Nora Miao) who would show him Rome while learning about the surroundings he’s in where the mob syndicate he’s dealing with are quite ruthless. Especially where they hire a man who is believed to be Tang’s equal.

Lee’s direction is quite stylish as it was shot on location in Rome, Italy where it does play into this sense of culture shock that Tang would endure early in the film. While Lee would use some wide shots to establish some of the locations, he would use mainly medium shots to play into some of the action as well as interaction with characters. Lee would make sure that there is a story to be told as he would also put in bits of comedy as it relates to Tang’s own awkwardness towards his surroundings as well as some of the action in the way the thugs are handled. The action is quite intense as it has elements of style with some suspense as its climax that is partially shot in the Roman Coliseum where Tang goes up against a man hired by the mob in Colt (Chuck Norris) is definitely the highlight of the film. Especially as Lee’s direction has him carefully create precise compositions and movement to showcase the fight in a calm yet gripping manner. Overall, Lee creates an exhilarating and intense film about a man fighting the mob to protect some people running a Chinese restaurant in Rome.

Cinematographer Tadashi Nishimoto does excellent work with the film’s cinematography as it is quite grainy due to its film stock yet does have some unique visuals in some of the scenes at night as well as the climatic fight scene between Tang and Colt. Editor Peter Cheung does nice work with the editing as it is mostly straightforward with some rhythmic cuts for some of the fight and action scenes. Art director Hsin Chien does terrific work with the look of the restaurant as well as some of the interior design of the Coliseum in some parts and the home of the mob syndicate. Sound recordist Shao Lung Chou does superb work with the sound as it play into some of the natural elements of the location with some sound effects for the action. The film’s music by Joseph Koo is wonderful for its playful score that feature some woodwinds, strings, and other instruments that add to the humor and action.

The film’s brilliant cast feature some notable small roles from Malisa Longo as an Italian beauty trying to woo Tang, the quartet of Robert Chan, Tommy Chen, Unicorn Chan, and Tony Liu as restaurant workers who also do karate as they help Tang in fighting off the thugs, John T. Benn as the mafia boss, Chin Ti as a waiter of the restaurant in Quen who knows Tang back in Hong Kong, and Paul Wei as the mob boss’ slimy consigliere Ho. Hwang In-Shik and Robert Wall are terrific as two hired martial arts expert sent by the mob to try and stop Tang while Wang Chung-hsin is superb as Chen’s uncle Wang who is trying to run the restaurant and not cause trouble. Nora Miao is wonderful as Chen Ching-hua as a restaurant owner who turns to Tang for help as she also tries to understand why he is so disciplined and quiet unless he fights.

Chuck Norris is incredible as Colt as this American martial artist who is hired by the mob to deal with Tang as he would prove to be Tang’s greatest challenge as Norris doesn’t say much but manages to make a hell of an impression. Finally, there’s Bruce Lee in a marvelous performance as Tang Lung as a loner who arrives to help out and deal with mob syndicate as Lee provides some elements of comedy in his restrained performance while balancing that with his intense approach to kung fu as it’s one of Lee’s iconic performances.

Way of the Dragon is a remarkable film from Bruce Lee that features a great performance from Lee and a phenomenal appearance from Chuck Norris. Along with its simple yet engaging story and high-octane action, the film is definitely a fun martial-arts film that does what it needs to do. In the end, Way of the Dragon is an incredible film from Bruce Lee.

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

© thevoid99 2017


Roman J. Martel said...

Wow, this one sounds like a lot of fun. For some reason I missed it when I went through my Bruce Lee binge back in college. It is quite possible the video store didn't have this one (yeah I'm that old that video stores were still around when I was in college). I've seen pic of Lee fighting Norris, and I never knew what film this was from, so thanks for solving that mystery. I'll need to check this one out.

Also, the plot sounds very familiar to me. I think Jackie Chan borrowed almost the same premise for "Rumble in the Bronx", with the uncle owning a convince store and being harassed by gangs and gun toting baddies. Obviously Chan modernized it quite a bit, but the basic skeleton of the plot and the tone sound nearly the same. Interesting.

thevoid99 said...

@Roman J. Martel-Chan probably did borrow bits of this film for Rumble in the Bronx but it didn't have that big showdown. Still, it's a fucking great movie and a must-see if you're a fan of Bruce Lee.

Chris said...

Definitely among the best martial arts films I've watched so far. The way Bruce Lee uses the nunchaku weapon (depicted on the poster) stayed with me, and yes, the final showdown w/ Chuck Norris is iconic. Besides that, the dialogue is quite funny, which was surprising.

thevoid99 said...

@Chris-I know. It offers so much more than being just a martial arts film and credit should go to Lee for that. Plus, I love the fact that Lee and Norris presented their fight with an air of respect. You don't see that very often in films today.