Enter the Dragon (1973)

Bruce Lee is a large figure in cinematic history. Not because of his stature or his personality, but because he along with a few other people like Jackie Chan, popularized the martial arts movie genre in Hollywood. As perhaps the most well-known of his works, "Enter the Dragon" shows why he became such a superstar that his name is still a household feature even to those who have never seen his movies.
A decade after the first James Bond movie, "Enter the Dragon" feels very much in the vein of 007. Its premise is eye-rollingly simplistic and its execution is very standard and yet, this isn't an art house movie attempting to revolutionize the film industry. This is something that was made to entertain and it succeeds on most fronts.
The movie is acceptably short and never contains any unnecessary scenes, albeit the script might contains unnecessary characters.
In the film, the poetry of martial arts is not lost to Lee (Bruce Lee) who is being trained at one of the most illustrious academies in the world. A prior student has left the school and its altruistic manner of thinking and has decided to go rouge, as it were. Any suggestion of Sarah Palin aside, this is pretty much "Star Wars" before "Star Wars" and here martial arts is the Force and this school is the Jedis. But whatever...moving on.
This rouge ex-student is named Han (Kien Shih) (yes, Han like Han Solo) and he holds a tournament on the island he owns for masters of martial arts to come and compete for a prize. This kind of rough and tumble free for all method of fighting is not Lee's style, yet a few officials in some government agency approach Lee and ask him to be their spy. Lee also has emotional ties to this case, but I won't say anything on the matter.
Anyways, so there's the premise: assemble the best fighters in the world on one island where shady somethings are happening and ask Lee to figure it all out.
The aforementioned Bond franchise should not be forgotten because the music is so jazzy/rock-n-roll that it's impossible to ignore James Bond's impact on the action film before "Enter the Dragon". There's nothing in the movie that would be particularly rememberable and yet, it is very fun throughout. It moves quickly, it has a solid, if beaten down plot, and Bruce Lee is a very watchable lead.
The movie does break down in terms of the actions of the protagonist. We see him teaching a pupil early in the movie about what martial arts is and he tells the student to fight him with emotion...but not anger. Well, don't pay any attention to that because Lee does becomes somewhat of a rage monster towards the end of the movie and other films would take these moments to show how the protagonist is flawed and have them learn from it...but not this flick. It just barrels past these moments at a breakneck speed to the conclusion. And I suppose I can't blame them for that.
Spies, thrills, fights, etc. What more did you want?

Score: ★★★

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