Enter The Dragon (1973)

Directed by
Good entertainment
Reviewed by Simon on 2021-05-20

Regarded by many in the west as the apex of Bruce Lee's career, there's no doubt that Enter The Dragon was an important movie in the development of martial arts cinema and its success abroad. We get some solid fights and plenty of Bruce's exposition about his martial arts philosophy, and a villain with an underground island lair.

Time has aged it quite a bit, and the world has certainly moved on since it was made. If it's not taken too seriously it still provides some solid entertainment though... no small part of which is looking for early appearances from a number of figures who would go on to take the seeds Bruce sowed in HK movie fighting on to higher levels.

The film feels like the mix of U.S. and Hong Kong production that it is, with director Robert Clouse bringing a certain sleaziness and some awkward dialogue or acting that tends to creep in whenever Bruce is off screen, but the Hong Kong crew clearly being in control whenever there's action. Bruce was clearly keen to showcase his skills and his ideas for action choreography, and he is a magnetic ball of muscle and sinew and he certainly knew how to pose. There are some innovations in the action such as the use of a first person perspective, but despite Lee's obvious ability the action is not overall better than that in many contemporary films from Shaw Brothers such as King Boxer or Boxer From Shantung.

The film is well shot, something I don't think I fully appreciated when I first saw it, but which is clear now that I've seen a lot more films from the early 1970's - or maybe it's just easier to appreciate on bluray than it was on VHS. The finale set in a hall of mirrors is rightly legendary, and it's kind of mind blowing how they manage to arrange all those multiple layers of reflections in mirrors that rotate or crack without the camera and crew showing up in shot.

Enter The Dragon 140

It's easy to see why ENTER THE DRAGON made such an impression on Western audiences who were used to the clunky action in James Bond films or Westerns - Bruce Lee's speed and agility must have seemed superhuman. It was also symbolic for the Chinese diaspora, an English language film where a Chinese star had co-equal top billing (obviously John Saxon got the better part of that deal) and was treated as a hero, and which doesn't play up the exoticism too badly.

It is, however, still a pretty cheesy film and very clearly rooted in its time - Fist Of Fury is a better example of Bruce Lee's legacy and influence.

(review updated in May 2021)