Review: Way of the Dragon (1973)


Starring Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Robert Wall

Fight Choreography by Bruce Lee and Unicorn Chan

Directed by Bruce Lee

Way of the Dragon is a bit of a different creature from some of Bruce’s other films. He tries to inject a bit more humor than we’re used to, and he succeeds for at least the beginning of the film, but it seems misplaced considering how the film progresses, which leaves the rest of the film…

The movie opens as Ah Lung (Lee) arrives in Rome from China (playing yet another country bumpkin. Remember, in Kung Fu films bumpkin=badass.) to help out a friend. He begins his stay by scaring the living daylights out of a poor kid by making crazy faces for no apparent reason. Bruce, WTF? He must really do that shit in his spare time. Kid looked like he crapped his britches when he saw Bruce’s face. I would too, and I’m a grown ass man. He soon meets the niece of his buddy, Miss Chen and together they go to the restaurant, where he is needed because he’s a fighter, and the restaurant has had a problem with the local crime lord who wants to buy the place.

Ms Chen runs him around Rome, and I got a little browbeaten with the fish out of water moments. Bruce, we get it. Country Chinese guy in Italy. Check. Soon he meets the waiters, a bunch of weak ass bitches practicing behind the restaurant with what one could call karate, but I would call embarrassing. Ah Lung is about to school them when they are interrupted. While Ah Lung is in the bathroom, the thugs show up, led by a frilly little bastard whose crew look like backup singers for Fleetwood Mac. They couldn’t block a punch if there was a wall between them. Which means the karate the waiters had learned wasn’t for shit. Soon they leave, but not before they toss an insult Ah Lung’s way that he didn’t understand.

Soon some of the same victi-I mean thugs return to start some crap. The waiters challenge them to a fight in the alley, and they agree, and one or two of the waiter get their asses kicked before Ah Lung shows up, and so help me it was a good thing YouTube didn’t exist at this time, else the ass-whupping the thugs received would have been seen from Iowa to Osaka. The fight is short, as it sure as hell should be. Of course the reserved Miss Chen takes a liking to him. Women dig a guy who can kick ass gracefully. The next day the waiters all want to learn kung-fu from Ah Lung, except for the waiter who was teaching them karate he saw on the Learning Channel, who has developed a case of bitch attitude, still not convinced that the mass ass-kicking he had witnessed the day before was worth a shit, so Ah Lung takes them out back and demonstrates kicks by having a guy hold up a pad, and it’s funny to see the look on his face as he realized that his doom may well be at hand, as that pad would not protect him from the kick, just let his body know through vibration a quarter second before he gets hit that the kick would be rather painful.

That night Ah Lung and Miss Chen are ambushed by a really crappy hitman, telling Miss Chen that the boss wants to see her. Two problems here: One, he says it in English. Two, he holds a gun, two things that Ah Lung doesn’t care for. A lot is lost in translation when someone holds a gun on Ah Lung. Suddenly “The boss wants to see you” instead translates into “ Please kick my ass repeatedly.” Which is exactly what Ah Lung does, and dumps his ass over the balcony. The hitman goes back to the boss, who is shocked that one dude was able to do this, so he sends them back, this time with weapons! The boss also comes himself to see if Ah Lung really is that good. So they take him out back to send his ass back to Hong Kong, and unfortunately for them he doesn’t want to, and beats up two of them, causing the rest to go into the alley to see what happened, and what does happen is a moment of epic asskicking, and sends the boss running for the hills.

That night, after that same silly hitman tries to kill Ah Lung and fails, Ah Lung returns home to find that Miss Chen has been kidnapped while he was out playing ‘pin the knife on the hitman’. We soon find her with the Boss ad his remaining men, all of whom were convinced that the multiple ass beatings they have received just weren’t enough. Ah Lung and crew do show up, but this time Ah Lung lets them beat on the thugs, embarrassing the boss again. This time the boss decides to fight fire with fire, and hires a group of karate masters led by the American champion Colt (Chuck Norris) to finish Ah Lung.

Soon Ah Lung, Uncle Wang and two waiters is led into their trap, with a Japanese and American (Robert Wall) waiting for them. Ah Lung takes care of them both, and the american gets the worst of it. In a complete left field moment Uncle Wang turns out to have been working for the Boss the whole time, and kills two of his own waiters.

Lung doesn’t see this as he is led to the Roman Coliseum, where Colt waits for him. The showdown here is incredible, one of the greatest one on one fights you’ll ever see in a film, and Chuck Norris proves to be no match for Bruce, but he’s close. After Ah Lung takes care of Colt, he returns to find out about Uncle Wang’s betrayal, who is in turn killed by the boss, who in turn is captured by the police. Ah Lung says his goodbyes and leaves to search the world for more asses to kick.

(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best)

CHOREOGRAPHY: (10) All of this goes to the fight between Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris. A fight that is a classic the world over, one of the best ever, featuring everything you would think would happen in a battle between titans.

STUNTS: (6) Nothing to write home about, but adequate for what was asked of them.

STAR POWER: (10) Bruce Lee. Chuck Norris. What more do you need?

FINAL GRADE: (9) Not really one of Bruce’s best, but it gave us that terrific all time classic fight, and also a new talent who would become the primary ambassador in the USA to promote martial arts, Chuck Norris.

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6 Responses to “Review: Way of the Dragon (1973)”

  1. Not one of Bruce Lee’s Best??? Brother, that is a mistake. Not only did it show us who the REAL Bruce is in his personality and his candor, it was also HIS film. He made it with his bare bones and blood. He wrote the script, wrote the plot, co produced the movie, choreographed it as usual, but most of all he directed the film. He even insisted in being part of the orchestra and played the musical instrument. If anything, the whole product as a film was 100% Bruce LEE. Hollywood’s “Enter” had too much other influences in there that Bruce had to wrestle hard against, there was alot of in-fighting and Bruce lost control on a few things, fighting tooth and nail just to keep the title he wished for. WAY of the Dragon is not only the strict vision of the Martial Arts master, it epitomized his philosophy at the climax of the film.

    In the beginning of the battle against Chuck, he was rigid and straight forward with force and power. But he learned the error of his way, so as a great fighter he was able to adapt immediately and recognized that he needed to be soft and pliant, so he changed. With his skills of adapting he then went from rigid and forceful to soft and playful. He became loose and free and thus beat Chuck. This is why he titled his baby “WAY of the Dragon”, to show that his way was a way of flexibility and liveliness instead of bashing strength and buffalo mentality.

    No other movie of Bruce’s actually teaches. And no other movie in the world actually teaches something so profound as a true principle in life. But philosophical sophistication aside, it is also a film of two hours of watching a very charming man!! His country ignorance and his simplicity and most of his courtesy and gentlemen-like qualities is far more enjoyable than looking at John Saxon or Jet Li all day. Most of his films he plays the no nonsense bad ass, who’s quiet and determined with invincibility, but in this film we see how Bruce’s real-life personality is like when he’s not kicking ass. I think that’s the best aspect, and it’s also why people all over love Bruce himself because they see he’s actually just a pleasant fellow with a great sense of humor.

    Then aside from having 2 hours worth of the charming personality and aside from the philosophical intelligence at the end on how to deal with a delima, it is also the best fight choreograph in all his films. The double non chucks scene was mesmerizingly brilliant (compared to the primitive nunchuck scene in Enter) and he takes out a whole gang in ten seconds, and battles 3 karate masters! So the Martial Arts alone makes it superior to everything else, even beating Enter on many levels.

    The last best part, is that it was a very basic story that captures the charm of simplicity. The beautiful but stuck up girl discovering she was wrong about why her uncle sent Bruce to help her out was such good directing and to see the whole gang of character-good guys sticking together was very cozy and honorable. But it was the twist at the end that shocked the sh*t out of me and many viewers. That showed Bruce knew how to write a great plot.

    Anyways, that film is regarded in China as Bruce’s greatest movie, and his own wife Linda Lee points it out as well as Bruce’s best achievement in her own privileged opinion. The Jeet Kune Do nucleus also votes it as the best of all his films and the most closest thing to representing all that is Bruce Lee. It’s always great to see him play the invincible bad ass that he is in real life but it was a much higher treat to see how the casual and real Bruce was like: A guy full of a love for life and bursting with vibrant energy, humor, and innocence….yet still the deadliest man to walk the earth. RRRRRRATAAAH!

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  2. P.S.

    I forgot-!
    “scaring the living daylights out of a poor kid by making crazy faces for no apparent reason. Bruce, WTF? He must really do that shit in his spare time. Kid looked like he crapped his britches”

    I can see that the humor of that eluded you, but Bruce doesn’t go around scaring kids in movies or in his real spare time. So as a thinking human, why would Bruce make that face to a foreigner kid? What would be the reason that a thinking person can suspect, imagine, conceive? Although it wasn’t suppose to be a puzzle as it was suppose to be simple to follow I guess a few people might not see it. Remember, he is a foreigner and cannot speak the language, thus how does he communicate when asking for something? Through facial gestures and body language. But also, Bruce believed anyway that a film should be mostly visual, “U gotta keep the dialogue down to a minimum”. So prior to approaching the kid, VISUALLY an observer of the film was intended to notice that Bruce was hungry. He didn’t verbally say “I am a hungry person”. It was suppose to be obvious in that universal language of body language. People don’t just touch their tummy’s for no reason and the stomach doesn’t grumble for no reason either.

    Anyhow, a kid is harmless and less embarrassing to approach, and the best he can think of , since the boy indeed had obtained food (ice cream) was to point to his mouth; say ahhhh, need food.

    Hilarious clash of cultures and age. I was cracking up

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    • Paul,

      Thanks for checking out the website. I love hearing other points of view. Just to respond to this one item, I do get the humor of the scene and the fish-out-of-water/culture class/misunderstanding of it all, especially that scene. I try to inject some humor into my reviews, so they won’t be so dead serious. If you check out some of the other reviews here, it’s much the same.

      As for whether I believe it is Bruce’s best, I don’t, and will stick to that. Yes, the film has much of Bruce’s personal philosophy in it, but so does Circle of Iron, and that’s a pretty crappy movie. Purely as a martial arts film, I think that both Enter the Dragon and Fists of Fury (Chinese Connection) are better for different reasons, but hey, that’s just my preference!

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  3. Also note the grade I gave it. It’s not a perfect film, but it’s damn close. Choosing one Bruce Lee film over another is like choosing whether chocolate covered cherries are better than chocolate peanut butter cups. Ultimately it’s a win no matter what you choose! (At least for me)

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  4. I didn’t actually know that Bruce Lee got this involved in his movies to the point where he wrote the script, co-produced and choreographed the movie. It’s true he didn’t speak the language and his films will always be classic. But I do wonder if getting some translation agencies on board to reedit the voice overs of his movies would help introduce them to new generations and allow his martial arts legacy to continue.

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  5. any one seen this re-make of the famous Bruce Lee – O’hara scene – it’s hilarious http://youtu.be/Vx-0b0vtZdE

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