Monday Movie: Enter the Dragon, by David Bax
Not sure why but I’ve been thinking about Bruce Lee a lot lately…
Specifically, I’ve been thinking about Enter the Dragon because, like a lot of other Americans, it’s all I know him from. Of course, that wasn’t necessarily the case at the time, as he’d spent years on American television (during which time he likely did not pick fights with stuntmen). But it’s Enter the Dragon, tragically his final film and a minor departure in some ways, that has come to define his legacy.
Even apart from Lee, Enter the Dragon has had its own major impact on action cinema. The premise of an evil, eccentric, madman hosting a secret martial arts tournament on a private island has been repeated so often that it no longer registers as a parody, merely a trope unto itself (how many moviegoers who saw Balls of Fury realized it was an Enter the Dragon homage?). And the final fight in a hall of mirrors has popped up in everything from Tango & Cash to John Wick Chapter 2.
Enter the Dragon‘s only slightly less obvious, but more important, contribution to action cinema is its melding of established subgenres. This is a classic martial arts revenge story as well as a James Bond riff with a healthy dose of blaxploitation thrown in.
But just trying thinking about all that while watching it. You might be able to for a while but you’ll inevitably be swept up in Lee’s finesse and his hypnotic, brutal physicality. His torso ripples and his limbs lash out like cobras, while his face burns with the drive and passion of his character. This is how we should remember him.