Writer: Stephen J Rivele, Christopher Wilkinson (Screenplay)
Starring: Philip Ng, Yu Xia, Billy Magnussen, Simon Win, Ron Yuan
Plot: Set against the backdrop of 1960s San Francisco, BIRTH OF THE DRAGON is a modern take on the classic movies that Bruce Lee was known for. It takes its inspiration from the epic and still controversial showdown between an up-and-coming Bruce Lee and kung fu master Wong Jack Man – a battle that gave birth to a legend.
Tagline – The Fight That Created The Legend
Runtime: 1 Hour 35 Minutes
There may be spoilers in the rest of the review
Verdict: Not the Most Effective Biopic
Story: Birth of the Dragon starts in 1964 San Francisco, where Bruce Lee (Ng) has started his own kung-fu academy with students including Steve McKee (Madnussen) and Vinnie Wei (Yin), he has just started to move into filming his fight sequences and always looks after his student’s mental vices too.
When one of the masters from China Wong Jack Man (Xia) visits to see the how Kung Fu is being used in the western world, he is guided around town by student Steve who wants to learn off him too. The showdown between the two is going to go down in legend.
Thoughts on Birth of the Dragon
Characters – Bruce Lee is the legend we know, in this film he is only in the early stages of teaching kung-fu to Americans, not the most popular decision within the kung fu community. He is cocky, arrogant and will help his students through any problems. He is moving into movies, filming his fights, but first he must prove himself to a former master. He believes he can win any fight he is put in using the kung fu skills he has learnt through the years. Wong Jack Man is a master of kung fu, visiting from China to learn how the Americans are using his skill. He is also punishing himself for his action back home, putting himself back into a position of needing to learn the reason of using kung fu. Steve McKee is the American that has been training under Bruce, but he becomes fascinated by Wong Jack Man’s visit wanting to learn more from his skills, while trying to win the heart of a Chinese local woman.
Performances – Philip Ng is solid enough with the fighting side of the film, but he does make Bruce look like a terrible person. Yu Xia is the best of the performers, the calmness he brings to the characters makes us want to see more of his characters life. Billy Magnussen did have his role cut back, which doesn’t help his performance because he does feel like the main character in this film.
Story – The story follows one of the masters of kung fu going to America to witness the new wave of kung fu being taught be Bruce Lee before they both get caught up in the middle of a gang war, needing to see just who is the best. This is meant to lead up to one of the most controversial fights every reported, only it makes Bruce Lee out to be an arrogant man and uses the stereotypes of gang mentality to give us a mostly traditional and dull story to follow. The story also gives up on its own main character getting completely lost in the story it is telling through the film.
Action/Biopic – The action involves the basic of kung fu which we have seen before, only feeling anti-climatic when it comes to the showdown between the legends.
Settings – The film is set in San Francisco which for the time would have been one of the locations the Asian community would have first been bring the kung fu teachings to America.
Final Thoughts – This is an action biopic that doesn’t give us enough details of the iconic Bruce Lee, doesn’t deliver on what is being promised and fails to make us connect to the characters involved.
Overall: Disappointing biopic.