First, watch the trailer (if you haven’t already seen it):
Philip Ng looks great as Bruce, and I’d love to see him play the role…in a Bruce Lee film. By that I mean a film that is 100% actually about Bruce Lee. The problem here is Hollywood, as it usually is. Instead of a film that gives us a real life story that is amazing in itself, we get a whitewashed version of it, with Billy Magnussen as Steve McKee (based on Steve McQueen) who has a side plot that has a Romeo and Juliet flair to it. Which is really baffling because the story at hand is already much more interesting. Why can’t we just let the film star Philip Ng and Wong Jack Man? Why is it necessary to have a white guy star in any Hollywood film when the main story is about someone of another race? I keep going back to this video below, from Last Week Tonight:
*Sigh* So here we are again. Now have I seen this film yet? No. Will I? For the purposes of this website, yes. Bruce Lee is/was one of the greatest martial arts alive, and if you wanted to get a white person in there with a side story, how about his actual wife Linda Lee? As for Mr. Magnussen, he may be a fine actor but most people don’t know him any more than they do Philip Ng, so him being in the film won’t give it any more box office, so the “money” explanation won’t work.
The thing that will sell this film is Bruce Lee. His name, to this day, even among mainstream audiences, gets their attention, and a well told BRUCE LEE story will get them to the theater. His world is ours. It doesn’t need a white guy to “navigate” audiences through that world, and Bruce Lee has explained kung fu in such simple terms that anyone can understand, because that was the point. Bruce Lee introduced Kung-Fu to the western world, and was its greatest ambassador. So far, going by this trailer and comments the director and writers have made, they failed to understand this simple concept, and that gives me pause that this film will be very good.
IF, and I say IF there is a “stand in for us” character needed, why not make him African-American (since “Black” movie theaters were the places where kung fu films were shown and flourished the most in the USA)? Or, in a bolder move, make him Chinese-American? Say someone who doesn’t know much about Kung Fu and that side of their own culture? ( I still think a Bruce Lee film needs to be only about Bruce Lee. Say what you want, but Dragon, The Bruce Lee Story got that part right).
The bottom line is this: Hollywood still believes, even with proof to the contrary, that actors of color can’t open a film to good/big box office. This idea will change and this has already begun, but we still have a long ways to go.
“To me, the extraordinary aspect of martial arts lies in its simplicity. The easy way is also the right way, and martial arts is nothing at all special; the closer to the true way of martial arts, the less wastage of expression there is.”