Enter The Dragon review

Banana Rating: 5 out of 5

Initially, Enter The Dragon is a three hander. The story fol­lows John Saxon, Jim Kelly and Bruce Lee on their way to a mar­tial arts tour­na­ment, compered by an ex-Shaolin monk who’s branched out into nar­cot­ics and pros­ti­tu­tion. We get a little bit of back story for each. Saxon and Kelly, old ‘Nam bud­dies, are on the run from com­edy gang­sters, and racist honky cops, respect­ively. Lee’s motives are more personal.

Of the three, poor old John Saxon is by far the least cap­able. Bruce Lee is a pro­ponent of The Art Of Fight Without Fight­ing. I’m not sure which mar­tial art Saxon had been prac­ti­cing, but I think it was The Art of Fight­ing Whilst Try­ing Not To Put Too Much Strain On The Testicles.

The ten­sion is unbear­able. Every time a high kick goes a little too high, will Saxon’s bean bag rip in two, and send his plums boun­cing down a hill? At the very least, his tight poly­es­ter slacks will keep some sort of a hold on them, should a hos­pital visit to stitch them back in be needed.

As for Jim Kelly, he was an accom­plished mar­tial artist, and ran his own kar­ate school. This much is obvi­ous, when seen in action. Also, if we are ever in any doubt about Kelly’s black cre­den­tials, the film makes sure we don’t for­get them, by mak­ing the soundtrack just a little bit funkier when he first appears onscreen, and reaf­firm­ing the notion that when it comes to a three­some, for a black guy, three just ain’t enough.

Even­tu­ally though, the film becomes Lee’s, show­cas­ing his whip fast bone crunch­ing skills to great effect. In an under­ground set piece that has him tak­ing on a huge num­ber of goons, he barely breaks a sweat. And if he does, it’s only because a sol­it­ary bead of per­spir­a­tion run­ning down his face would look more styl­ish than if it wasn’t.

He was also eager to show­case Chinese cul­ture as well as his action moves. He suc­ceeded. Not only did I learn not to con­cen­trate on the fin­ger, in case I miss all the heav­enly glory, but I also learned that dip­ping a fin­ger into a cut on your chest, and dab­bing your tongue with your own blood, before unleash­ing Hell with a flurry of kicks and punches, is as cool as it gets. If that’s Chinese cul­ture, well, count me in.

His final film before his untimely death, Lee was either murdered by tri­ads, the vic­tim of a fam­ily curse, or struck down by a spe­cial kind of super-duper mar­tial arts punch that kills you three weeks after impact. But it was appar­ently a reac­tion to a head­ache tab­let that finally copped for him.

Like many movie stars who have died before their time, we’re left to won­der about the films that could have been, had Lee lived longer. At the other end, Kien Shih, who was hardly a spring chicken when the film came out in 1973, only died in 2009 at the grand old age of 96.

The film is a fit­ting swan song. Whilst some might argue that the plot is a bit weak, and bor­rows from bet­ter movies, it’s well paced, and feels mean and lean where most mod­ern action movies feel flabby. At one point, Jim Kelly says, “Man, you come right out of a comic book!” He’s talk­ing to the bad guy, Han (Kien Shih), but he might as well be refer­ring to the entire movie. Col­our­ful, punchy, and to the point.