Image Of Bruce Lee (HK 1978)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 3/22/10
Cast: Ho Chung Tao (Bruce Li), John Cheung, Bolo Yeung, Dana

You have to feel sorry for Bruce Li. As the Hong Kong film industry was still desperately trying to find a replacement for Bruce Lee, Li found himself in the unenviable position of trying to emulate him. Of course, replacing a legendary cultural icon turned out to be an impossible task, and he become a subject of criticism and derision for years to come. It's not like he considered himself the next Bruce Lee or even wanted to be. It was just a job, and one that denied him his own sense of identity. While he's a quick, precise, and agile fighter, he lacks a certain amount of physical grace and will forever be unfairly compared to Bruce Lee. It's unfortunate, because taken on his own he's quite good, but the Bruce exploitation angle always leaves a bad taste.

In this absurdly titled film, Li plays a Hong Kong cop named Dragon who happens to be an expert martial artist. The film opens with a truly ridiculous scene of Dragon scaling a building in Bruce Lee's signature yellow track suit from "Game Of Death" (1976). Even sillier, is that he makes his ascent climbing a rope with only his hands. While this is an extremely impressive physical feat, it's also completely ludicrous. Why would anyone choose to climb a rope like that if they didn't have to? But the real money shot is when he attempts to rescue a man who is about to jump off the building, and pulls off his artificial arm in the process. Huh?!? This entire sequence is just baffling and there's no reason for it to be in the film. After that, the plot settles into a standard cops and robbers formula where Dragon and his partner are trying to bust a counterfeit money ring. The villain's adorably sexy niece (Dana) shows up to add some spice to the proceedings, and she is quite wonderful to watch. She wastes no time in getting fully naked, as the film was made during a time when nudity was considered progressive art. Her most amusing scene is when Bolo Yeung grabs her breast and leaves it bruised. "Look what you've done!" she cries, as she pouts and thrusts her exposed boob at the camera. Can't say that I've ever seen that before... Eventually, the good guys beat up all the bad guys and the counterfeit plates are confiscated.

This is definitely a high octane action flick, as every time poor Dragon shows up on film, he's getting ambushed and/or beaten up by someone. The fight choreography is very good and the major players are quite capable. There is a LOT of fighting in the film, and it actually gets a little tiresome after a while. As I mentioned before, Li fights well and fights a lot, which is quite satisfying. He has a nice intensity to him, but otherwise doesn't emote much. Whenever he's not fighting, he just silently broods. Having not seen any of Li's other films, I can't say how this one compares, but taken on its own terms it's a well made and entertaining kung fu actioner.