Enter The Dragon (1973) - 7/10
I’m not sure I’ve ever watched a martial arts film. I’ve seen plenty that have been influenced, but think the closest I’ve got is Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and to be perfectly honest I recall nothing about it. Enter The Dragon though has classic status, so surely I’m in good hands. Lee (Bruce Lee) is a gifted young Shaolin fighter with a zen filled mind as fast as his fists. He’s recruited to restore his temples honour by teaching disgraced former student Han (Kien Shih) a lesson. He’s an opium dealer see. Concerned with lining his pockets and generally taking care of number one. Not the Shaolin way and not to the liking of the authorities either. We may be in Hong Kong, but this is every bit an American film in tone. Even if Lee gets his briefing from the very British Braithwaite (Geoffrey Weeks). Heading to Han’s private remote island, we discover that Lee has more personal skin in the game than first thought. He’s there under the premise of entering a martial arts tournament. One that attracts all sorts. Including Roper (John Saxon) who’s got debts and is chasing a prize and the spectacularly superfly Williams (Jim Kelly) his old Nam buddy. It’s beautifully shot and largely well acted with enough plot to tie all the fight sequences together. Its opening act has real style and substance. Granted it’s dated in places, made in ‘73 it’s not exactly modern regarding things like gender roles, but once your past that, it’s fairly solid. Wrapped around the fighting they’re there for, the trio get into their own scrapes, betting, spying and discovering that the island isn’t all about pleasure. It does lose some of its heft the further we go and gets a bit caricatured and predictable, like a Connery era Bond film and I’ll admit I begin to lose interest. Thankfully the finale delivers with Lee taking centre stage in a mass brawl that’s amazingly put together, before he pauses with a cold stare to deliver the sort of line that grants this the status it receives. The crew then flex with a stunning scene shot in a room full of mirrors. It’s not convinced me to watch any other Bruce Lee films, but this is a great one and worth a watch even if you don’t usually go in for this sort of thing.