Friday Fisticuffs: Fists Of Fury/The Big Boss (1971)

Before getting into the actual review of this movie, I just HAVE to talka bout this poster. Look at how bonkers it is! Bruce looks nine kinds of crazy, but also pretty awesome. Also not the dude under Lee’s left armpit, he looks ridonc. Also, notice the guy who stands poised to attack The Dragon’s crotch. But, my favorite part is that tag line: “Bruce Lee claims his revenge through death and beyond.” Huh? What is beyond death and how do you get vengeance through it? Maybe it’s a philosophical thing I don’t understand.

ANYWAY, the movie. It’s okay. I hate writing that about a Bruce Lee movie because I want all of them to be amazing, but this one definitely has the feel of a guy who would be a star starring in a movie he doens’t have much or possibly any control over. Thanks to the switching of roles when director Wei Lo, Lee actually switched characters and wound up not fighting for the first 20 or so minutes of the movie (because he made a promise to a family member not to). I should also note that I watched a really crappy transfer from some budget martial arts multi-pack I bought a few years back. It looks like someone found a print of the film in a closed down drive-in with broken windows and transferred it directly. Actually, the trailer below is of far better quality than my copy. Yeah, it looks bad, but it also seems to fit the movie. I mean, we’re not talking about something as visually awesome as Enter The Dragon, this looks like a lot of other late-night cable Hong Kong action flicks.

The plot is pretty basic. Lee comes to town and starts working at a factory that basically runs the town with an iron fist (though not an iron claw hand like in Enter). Lee, along with some less-good fighters, puts a stop to it. This is all based, apparently, on a true story about a man named Cheng Chao-an which is also the name of Lee’s character.

But all that is secondary to the point of this post: the fights. They’re okay. Again, this isn’t Enter The Dragon or The Chinese Connection which he had a lot more control over. The guy who does most of the fighting in the film’s first half does a pretty good job and Lee is always charismatic on screen, but between the editing and stunt work, this leaves much to be desired. But then you realize that those are just the non-Lee fight scenes. He actually directed and choreographed his own scenes and used a much more realistic approach. Of course, you’ve got to sit through a while of boring fights to get to the gold, but they’re there. Note that the following clip is the end of the film and therefore a SPOILER.

At the end of the day, I’m not sure where you should watch this if you’re exploring Bruce Lee’s movies for the first time. It might be a let down after the excellent Chinese Connection and Enter The Dragon (his next and final features respectively). I don’t think I’ve seen Way Of The Dragon in about 10 years if at all, so I can’t speak to that one. However, watching it first might not convince you how awesome he really is. It’s a conundrum. Whatever you do, just don’t watch Game Of Death, that thing’s a travesty.

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