Moderator / Reviewer
- Apr 4, 2017
My AV System
- Preamp, Processor or Receiver
- Yamaha TRS-7850 Atmos Receiver
- Other Amp
- Peavy IPR 3000 for subs
- Universal / Blu-ray / CD Player
- Sony ubx800 4K UHD Player
- Front Speakers
- Cheap Thrills Mains
- Center Channel Speaker
- Cheap Thrills Center
- Surround Speakers
- Volt 10 Surrounds
- Surround Back Speakers
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- Rear Height Speakers
- Volt 6 Overheads
- 2x Marty subs (full size with SI 18's)
- Video Display Device
- JVC RS-46 Projector
- Draper Cineperm M1300 119 inch Static Screen
Birth of the Dragon
There are very few martial arts legends as lionized and fabled as the great Bruce Lee. By all accounts and eye witness stories, he could leap tall buildings in a single bound, defeat 40 men just with his left foot, and could even through people through brick walls with his famous “1 inch punch”. Now, naturally I’m kidding just a bit, but to say that his stature and prowess has been exagerrated over the years is an understatement. He was a fantastic martial artist, who pretty much molded American martial arts films, and even the grand daddy of mixed martial arts as a method of REALLY fighting. However, the man has had much padding added to his career, with elements of good and bad attributed to him to the point where truth and fiction are so blurred that many of us may never know WHAT went down back in California during those days. The biggest, and one of the most stylized, confrontations in his legacy is that of the fight between himself and Wong Jack Man, a monk from the Shaolin temple. We’ve seen various interpretations of the fight, such as in Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story where Bruce is being punished by the ancient masters of Kung Fu for teaching his skills to white folks (a story that’s been debunked a thousand times by Ed Parker and many others). There Bruce faces off against Wong Jack Man in a dungeon setting surrounded by a high council of ninja like warrior leering on in disapproval. There Jack Man pulls a dirty move and sucker punches him in the back to win the fight. Birth of the Dragon also takes a highly stylized approach to the fantastical face off, pitting a young and arrogant Bruce Lee (which is not entirely false if you study his records) against a wise and long suffering grand master who has to teach the young man some humility and a lesson.
What makes the film even MORE strange is the point of view of the film. The original trailer made it seem like the film would be all about Bruce vs. Wong Jack Man, but upon further review it looks like there is a third point of view being forced in. That of one of Lee’s white students who takes up the majority of the film, side lining Bruce in his own movie and focusing in on this student and Wong Jack Man’s relationship. As such, I would have to say that we have to take the movie’s authenticity with a HUGE grain of salt (giant sized would be more accurate), and I’d estimate most of it is pure fantasy. With that in mind, and keeping in your head that this doesn’t have Bruce Lee be the center post of the movie, it’s actually a semi decent martial arts flick.
As you can see, the fight itself really only takes up about 20% of the film. The rest of the time is dealing with Steve’s problem with himself, and introducing us to Wong Jack Man, who is an overly navel gazing monk without a car for this modern world. The natural bonds of friendship and respect are born as Steve proves to Wong Jack Man that not all westerners are devoid of the spirit of Kung Fu, while Bruce is portrayed as an overly brash and insensitive thug (which is actually not completely wrong either). The film borders on pure fantasy at times, and my first viewing of the film was actually pretty frustrating. I was expecting a Bruce Lee movie, but instead got a story about Wong Jack Man and a student of Lee’s. If you can take that expectation out, the second viewing was actually much better, but the FILM itself is still rather uneven. The dialog borders on nonsensical at times, and the fight scenes even more heavily cartoonized than ACTUAL Bruce Lee films.
On the plus side. The action is usually quite good. There’s some over use of wire work, and the dialog gets goofy, but the fights are tight and brutal, with Philip Ng showing off some impressive fight scenes. While the legendary fight gets the most hype, it’s actually the fight against the triad goons at the end that really got the best of the choreography. Most likely because the match between Wong and Bruce was mostly a tournament fight, while the battle with the thugs was your classic movie choreography, with the heroes taking no prisoners.
Rated PG-13 for martial arts violence, language and thematic elements
Birth of the Dragon was in and out of theaters in scant few weeks, and I can understand why. For a film billing itself as the face off between the two legendary masters, it really didn’t have much to DO with the fight itself, or about Bruce Lee, except in the most cursory way. it’s a decent martial arts flick in its own rights, but as a movie based upon the legend of Bruce Lee it is sorely lacking. The technical presentation of the disc is amazing, with strong video and audio scores, but sadly a very lackluster lineup of extras. I personally would give it a rental if you’re a kung fu fanatic like myself, but would limit my purchasing habits until a good rental was checked out before tossing down coin for a buy.
Starring: Billy Magnussen, Yu Xia, Philip Ng
Directed by: George Nolfi
Written by: Stephen J. Rivele, Christopher Wilkinson
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, English DVS
Runtime: 96 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: November 21st, 2017