Turn Back the Clock
Way of the Dragon
Distributed by Golden Harvest
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
When I bought the Bruce Lee set of movies, it was due to more than just nostalgia. I loved watching Bruce Lee as a kid, but as an adult, I seem to love him even more. He wasn’t just a terrific martial artist, but a tremendous presence on the screen. Handsome and charismatic, Bruce Lee was much more than a fighter, he was an innovative actor and an all-around talent lost all to soon.
In the Way of the Dragon, AKA: Return of the Dragon, Tang Lung (Bruce Lee) is sent by his uncle to Rome to help Chen Ching Hua (Nora Miao) with her restaurant. Local gangsters have been targeting her restaurant, pressuring her to sell out to them. Chen Ching Hua’s employees would be more than happy to protect her honor and the restaurant, but they are poorly trained in the martial arts and no match for the thugs. Tang Lung, underestimated by Chen Ching Hua and the thugs he is up against shows the gangsters a lesson they won’t soon forget, prompting their boss (Jon T. Benn) to hire a martial arts champion from the United States named Colt (Chuck Norris) to eliminate Tang Lung once and for all. And he will have some inside help as Tang Lung will soon discover a traitor in their midst.
Although all of Bruce Lee’s films exhibit how powerful he was as a martial artist, Way of the Dragon is one of the best examples of Bruce Lee’s physical prowess. In scenes where he is practicing his art, you can see the explosive power, the musculature and endurance, the ability to fight with any weapon. During his fight scenes, you also get a peek at some of the more unusual techniques Lee recommended in his martial arts teachings – using whatever weapon is available and aiming for any opponent’s weakness, like striking the groin, snatching the hair off your opponent’s chest and more.
The story of the movie is a tad weak, but Bruce Lee’s screen presence and the fight scenes more than make up for the failure to produce a more intriguing storyline. I did love the bits of humor offered up when Bruce Lee’s character makes an attempt at, and often fails to, understand the European culture. When in Rome, do like the Romans do. That’s what Chen Ching Hua tries to impress upon Tang Lung. But the one time he really tries to take her advice, he finds himself in quite an embarrassing state of affairs. Makes for some pretty good humor, as does the flirtatious advances the boss’ lead henchman makes toward Tang Lung throughout the film.
The fight scenes throughout the film are terrific and I loved watching Bruce Lee using homemade darts, nunchuks, a staff and his hands and feet to defeat the bad guys who are simply too stupid to stop attacking. But the ultimate fight pits Bruce Lee against Chuck Norris in a fight to the death that takes place in the Roman Coliseum. The scenery was quite interesting as a backdrop for one of the most interesting fight scenes in Bruce Lee history. But one thing took away from the scene - something I didn’t remember from my earlier viewings of the film – the flashes between the eyes of the fighters, often a centerpiece of climactic fights in martial arts movies, were interspersed between shots of stray cats and kittens living at the Coliseum. I suppose this was an attempt to add just a tiny bit of humor to an intensely dramatic scene.
The DVD version of Way of the Dragon I purchased contained celebrity interviews with Sammo Hung, Flora Cheong-Leen, Wong Jing and more regarding Bruce Lee’s attraction to the audience – the special, sexy charismatic way he had, his acting skills and his skills at martial arts. I agree with the statement made in this DVD extra – though many have tried, none can truly copy Bruce Lee. He was a legend unto himself.