ABC Film Challenge – World Cinema – B – Birth of the Dragon (2016)

Director: George Nolfi

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.

PerformancesPhilip 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.

StoryThe 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/BiopicThe 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.

SettingsThe 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.


Scene of the Movie –
The club fight.

That Moment That Annoyed Me The showdown was billed to be more.

Final ThoughtsThis 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.

Rating

 

 

ABC Film Challenge – Biopic – A – Ali (2001)

Director: Michael Mann

Writer: Stephen J Rivele, Christopher Wilkinson, Eric Roth, Michael Mann (Screenplay) Gregory Allen Howard (Story)

Starring: Will Smith, Jamie Foxx, Jon Voight, Mario Van Peebles, Ron Silver, Jeffrey Wright, Mykelti Williamson

 

Plot: A biography of sports legend Muhammad Ali, focusing on his triumphs and controversies between 1964 and 1974.


Tagline – Float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.

Runtime: 2 Hours 37 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Boxing Biopic a Must Watch

 

Story: Ali starts on the brink of Cassius Clay (Smith) first title match in 1964, a match he wins to become heavyweight champion of the world, with his place on top of the world ready, Cassius joins forces with Malcolm X (Peebles) becoming a Muslim in the process, changing his name to Muhammad Ali.

With the Vietnam war drafting men from America, Muhammad is drafted, but he refuses to go and fight which leads him to be stripped of the title and banned from fighting in certain states, Ali uses his to create one of the biggest fights in history, The Rumble in the Jungle.

 

Thoughts on Ali

 

Characters – Muhammad Ali is one if not the most famous boxers in the world, in the history of the sport, he help shape the sport to be what we know now, with his charisma and loud behaviour against his opponents, we follow just ten years of his life, from his first title win, through his religious change, the battle against the government about fighting in the Vietnam war, to being part of one of the biggest fights in boxing history. When we focus on the rest of the real-life people we get to see the loyal people in his life, reporter Howard Cosell that seemed to have a wonderful relationship which included banter between the two and the promoters that make the fight possible.

PerformancesWill Smith in the role of Ali is brilliant, this is easily his best performance of his career showing the world that he can have his wise cracking side mixed with the serious side. We have an unrecognizable Jon Voight who is shows us all that how easily he can morph into any role. The rest of the supporting cast are good without being fantastic or taking away anything from Smith in the leading role.

StoryThe story here takes us into Muhammed Ali’s life for ten years, we get to see from the night he first won the title till the famous Rumble in the Jungle match. We do see the obstacles he must overcome to remain the man he was which in itself is an incredible story during late 60s America. My issues with the story come from not seeing everything that Ali went through in this career, mostly the rise to the top, which could have been an even more interesting story. for the story to only cover 10- years is interesting because we could have seen so much more of the legal battle against the government, the religious battles he faced because of his stance on war and action with the women. The truth is, Ali lived an amazing life and there are so many story we could learn about him from his career any film just can’t cover them all.

Biopic/SportsTen years of one of the great boxers in the history of the sport, one of the men that changed the sport almost doesn’t give it enough justice. The sports side of the film comes from the boxing scenes which are incredibly real through the film we do get a couple and they do go on a long time.

SettingsThe film here takes us to the important locations in Ali’s life, the ring of course is the most important one while we get scenes away from the ring to as we look at his church and his personal life.


Scene of the Movie –
Rumble in the Jungle.

That Moment That Annoyed Me I would have like to see more of his life and career

Final ThoughtsThis is one of those biopics which is great to watch and has wonderful scenes, only for it to be missing that big it factor about it. The fights do feel real which is key and the performances are flawless, we could only have learnt more.

 

Overall: Biopic to enjoy.

Rating