Where the Dragon Began:
Bruce Lee challenged Wong Jack Man, the most famous Shaolin Monk, to a private fight to prove that he was the greatest. Birth of the Dragon tells this story based on true life. Lee established himself as the premier fighter for which he is known today through this fight. The lessons Lee learned led him to change his style which changed the field of martial arts in a positive way.
Bruce Lee (Philip Ng)
Philip Ng plays the part of Bruce Lee in well. His moves and mannerisms follow with the precision, speed and acrobatic moves that one would expect of someone telling the story of one of the greatest martial artist known in history. However, his over acting concerning an arrogant Lee was distracting. When he wasn’t playing an arrogant part, his screen presence was superb. Bruce Lee changed the image of martial arts for generations to come. This was a bi-line in the film that could have been built on better.
I recall being with friends imitating the smooth moves of the master of kung fu as a young child and later a teenager,. “Waaaaaaahaaa” would echo throughout the house on a daily basis. Who can forget the many films that Lee stared in which brought kung fu and martial arts to America in force, making martial arts popular.
Wong Jack Man (Xia Yu)
Xia Yu plays Wong Jack Man. Yu plays the believable part of a Shaolin Monk. The Shaolin temple is considered the original source of kung fu. This movie addresses the contrast between the sheltered and protected old styles with the expansion of kung fu outside the temple walls. Xia Yu was the best part of this movie. His acting and movements were smooth and believable. He carried the show.
George Nolfi (The Adjustment Bureau) directed the film which co-stars Billy Magnussen, Jingjing Qu, and Jin Xing. Set in 1964 San Francisco, the backdrops and scenes represent a purest view of the time frame and do not reflect modern interpretations.
Controversy surrounds this film because some believe the movie did not focus on Bruce Lee enough. There were claims after the Toronto Film Festival that film made a white man the main character. With the feeling that Hollywood white washes films about Asia, this has created a very real controversy.
I didn’t see why there was a controversy. Chinese Kung Fu masters save an angry white guy who tries to do something noble. Magnussen did provide a needed role in bridging the gap between Lee and Man. Magnussen’s flaw in the film was that he over enveloped the angry hothead characteristic.
With two very capable actors over doing their roles, it leads me to believe that the direction to overemphasize the character flaws came from the director and not the actors themselves.
Birth of the Dragon is a well filmed movie, and had a nice story, and of course, great fight scenes. It is worth seeing. Xai Yu’s acting of was worth noticing since it made the movie. Even with minor flaws, it was entertaining.
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