In the past few months, I have started to become a fan of Kung-Fu films. Of all the ones I have seen so far, this 1973 classic is definitely my favorite. "Enter the Dragon" didn't have to be a good movie. The world had already fallen in love with Bruce Lee, and just the mere image of him fighting was enough to make a crowd-pleaser. Regardless of this, directors Robert Clouse and Bruce Lee, writer Michael Allin, and producers Fred Weintraub and Paul Heller went above and beyond, and they made of one the finest masterpieces of the 1970's. With a great plot, Grade-A fighting, a cast full of talent, and cinematography to die for, this final hurrah for Lee was a triumph.
The story begins with Lee fighting in a tournament. As expected, he is the most talented fighter in the area, and he wins with no problem. He is then summoned to go to a tournament on an island owned by a man named Han. Rather than just fight, he is needed to investigate, because Han is under suspicion of running drug rings and prostitution. When he gets there, he becomes acquainted with two other fighters named Roper and Williams, and this seemingly innocent tournament becomes a fight for their lives.
The first thing that really blew me away about this film was the fighting. The choreography was so authentic, and it was brutal beyond belief. These spars were not just your normal match, and they could sometimes become fights to the death. There is broken necks, jump-kicks to the face, and just about everything you could think of. It also really helped that both Bruce Lee and Jim Kelly were very experienced in the field to begin with. John Saxon was the newcomer, but he was also very impressive with his moves.
The acting in the movie was above and beyond, with very convincing performances by the four leads. Bruce Lee(being talented at everything he did) was so passionate in his role, and it was easy to forget that this wasn't his real life. He really took the "James Bond" persona in this character, because there was such a suave way about him, and all he needed to do was give that iconic smirk to show that he was a star. John Saxon was also very good in his role of Roper. A veteran actor, he had the basics down pat, and he made me laugh with his sarcastic sense of humor. He also had a great way of portraying a certain pain in his character, which was a good indicator of Roper's reckless ways. Jim Kelly took his first acting role in this film, and he did a great job. He brought so much attitude and swag to his character, and he also made me laugh a lot. Finally, Shih Kien was perfectly evil as the main antagonist Han. Even though the viewer doesn't hear his voice(Keye Luke dubbed his dialogue in the English version), Kien used great body language to get across his emotions. Just by looking in his eyes, there is a huge amount of darkness that just pours out, and it was just amazing.
The cinematography of this film was top notch, as it used techniques like slow-motion and close-ups in the greatest way possible. Some of the best examples of this were the midair jumps, because the slow-motion just added to the suspense greatly. The filming also gave such a gorgeous look to the film as a whole, and it was a big factor in its greatness.
The ending of the film was also amazing, as it featured one of the most climatic fights scenes ever. Every moment of it had me on the edge of my seat, as I didn't know what the result would be. In my opinion, this is the best way to end a movie, because the surprise makes it so much more memorable.
"Enter the Dragon" is truly a treasure of contemporary cinema. It is truly the best possible commemoration of Lee(who passed away soon after). Whether you are a martial arts fan or not, this is a movie to have on your list, because it is a pure piece of art.