Monday, January 23, 2012

Way of the Dragon: I'm looking for a man from Hong Kong...

Paul Wei Ping-Ao as "Ho" in Way of the Dragon
"I'm looking for a man from
Hong Kong named
Tang Lung."
aka - Way of the Dragon

  We are going to start out our blogging series with a classic. And honestly, who doesn't love Bruce Lee?

  I would have to say, in my best estimation, that Way Of the Dragon is one of the best classic Kung Fu films of all time, having inspired both consumer perceptions of martial arts films (Huuuuwaaaaaaa...) as well as the style and staging of modern day actors. I mean yes, the Shaw Brothers played a huge part in our experiences with cheesy dialogue and poor overdubbing in Chinese films, packed with over emphasized punching and kicking noises. However, Bruce Lee's style and staging in this movie has been replicated time and again, paying homage to our fallen Kung Fu hero.
  An example of this can be seen in the parallel drawn between Bruce Lee's character Tang Lung kicking out a ceiling light in the office of the big boss (top), and Tony Jaa's character kicking out a street light in "The Protector" (bottom).
ANYWAY!!! Back to the movie at hand

  "Way of the Dragon", released in 1972, was written and directed by Bruce Lee. It is set in 1970's Rome, where everyone who is not Chinese apparently speaks perfect American English. Tang Lung (Bruce Lee) is a simple, naive country boy who is sent to the big city by his uncle to assist his cousin with a thug problem in their Chinese restaurant. At the beginning of the story Tang Lung is viewed as incapable of actually helping out with the Syndicate problem that the restaurant faces. However, as the story progresses and the thugs become more and more of a problem for Uncle Wang's restaurant, Tang Lung's Kung Fu abilities surface and he quickly moves from "country bumpkin" to "Hero".

  About halfway through the film, there is a gem of a fight scene here that all too frequently is overshadowed by the mighty death match at the end of the film. At one point, our hero finds himself in an alley behind the restaurant with a gang of (not very Italian) thugs. Tang Lung, seeing the four of them led by an overly cocky 1970's Kevin-Smith-looking fellow somehow produces a pair of nunchaku from thin air. Just WHOOSH, and from behind his back, high speed sticks of death. Presumably, he is just that amazing. 


In response, four more thugs materalize, BUT WAIT! Tang Lung is ready with another pair of nunchaku!

Where is he finding these things?!?!

The highlight of this scene must undoubtedtly be when our sweaty Kevin-Smith-lookalike picks up a discarded pair of nunchaku (guess Tang didn't really need two pair after all...), and, in a desperate attempt to not look like a chump, shouts “Mama-Mia” and manages to smack himself in the head with his own weapon. And the Chinese waiters were unable to beat these guys? Good times… good times…
  Now, roughly 2/3 of the way through the movie, the big boss decides to employ a karate assassin from America to take out Tang Lung. Who is this assassin? You got it... none other than our own native son, Chuck Norris starring in his first major on camera role.The awesomeness continues… there is a twist, and NO… Betrayal! Can it be??? Tang Lung is now sent all over the Italian countryside, kicking assets and not even bothering to take names. 

  In the end, Colt (Norris) and Tang Lung (Lee) have a battle royale in the Coliseum. When in Rome, right? As the fighting begins, there are back and forth shots of Norris and Lee... Norris and Lee... Cat... Lee and Norris...

   Why is there a kitten intertwined into this epic fight scene? No one seems to really know. And so, in order to add to the mystery of this scene we, the writers of "Punch in the Neck", have lovingly dubbed this adorable kitty as "Murder Cat".

"Murder Cat"
  In the end, Tang Lung wins the fight and Colt is presumably left dead in the Coliseum. Rather than walk away with the girl and the glory, he wanders off into the distance with the final line of the film being, "In this world of guns and knives, wherever Tang Lung may go to, he will always travel on his own."

   This movie is riddled with subtle comedic, situational humor (Chinese waiters Jimmy, Tommy, Tony, Robert, and Chang), as well as 1970's cultural references. If you like 70's style in clothing and interior design, this movie is of course heavy laden with the most fantastic bell bottoms, double knit, and Italian silk (aka 1970's polyester). The fight scenes are both dynamic, but also comedic at the same time ("Mama Mia!") and all in all you are a witness to the multi-faceted skill of Bruce Lee in his directorial and screen writing debut. I give it 4 punches and a big HIYAAH!!!

   So, go out to your local video store, OR check out Netflix, to see "Way of the Dragon" today. HOWEVER, due to nudity, language, and perhaps subtitles (depending on which version you watch), I do not recommend this for children at all.

The Martial Arts Movie Mavens (Kelly and MJ)


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