To call Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story a biopic might be stretching the truth a little, but then this film does it at every turn. While the core elements of Bruce Lee’s life are mostly accurate it is embellished to the point where Lee’s films were apparently less action packed than his real life…
Take the opening scene set in Hong Kong for instance, where Lee (Jason Scott Lee) defends the virtue of a young Chinese girl from a marauding gang of horny American sailors. Within seconds Lee is set upon by the nasty Americans and must defend himself in a variety of athletic and acrobatic ways.
And would you believe it in the melee his shirt is unexpectedly ripped off to reveal his glistening muscles!
Bruce and Linda (Lauren Holly) are presented with no negative traits or character flaws and practically every obstacle possible is cast in their path. Yet of course even with all this adversity Bruce Lee (and let’s not forget Linda) was able to triumph due to his enviable confluence of athletic ability, savvy and above all a constant drive to succeed. It’s no wonder that wife Linda Lee happily endorsed this version of events, after all she wrote it.
I think practically everyone who had even a passing interest in Lee’s life would know the basic plot developments here. Lee moved to America from Hong Kong as a young man, developed his own unique brand of martial arts, embraced and living by his philosophy, met and married Linda and was discovered and immortalised in films before his untimely death at 32.
The film only shows Lee’s move to television and film late in the piece when Bill (Robert Wagner) witnesses one of his fights, and zooms through his film career. Probably a smart move as if you’re seeking out this film there is a good chance you’ve seen his movies already.
I don’t doubt the casual and constant racism that both Bruce and Linda must have faced (for rookies Bruce is Chinese-American, Linda Caucasian), I just doubt that he faced a group of poorly choreographed kung fu fighting assailants every 15 minutes of his life.
Jason Scott Lee portrays Bruce Lee (no relation) as being relentlessly driven, highly principled and bold, all traits that Lee was already renowned for. It is unfortunate that being an Asian actor Jason Scott Lee didn’t find a wider audience as he shows solid acting chops here. It is a good performance and without it the film would suffer. He also obviously did his homework like millions of other Bruce-wannabes, though unlike the rest of them – OK us – he has the athletic ability to convincingly fool the viewers that he could actually fill his karate slippers.
Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story provides a gilt edged view of the life of Bruce Lee. I think it realistically shows some of the obstacles that this unique man had to overcome and the incredible drive and sense of purpose that kept him on the path to success. It’s just that the other elements look very much like the version of his life that Hollywood would make to the story more entertaining. Which is exactly what happened, and the reason that Dragon is little more than a heavily biased puff piece.
Final Rating – 6.5 / 10. Read his books, watch his films, (buy his bootleg T-Shirts), but take his film with a grain of salt.