Monday, August 20, 2007

The Big Boss (a.k.a. Fists of Fury)

Yes, I am absolutely the kind of person to make an intro post saying that most of my critiques would be about horror movies, then make my first one on a martial arts film. This is the kind of change-up you’re going to have to expect around here, you know. Anyway, this is the first film in the Bruce Lee Ultimate Collection that I recently purchased. It’s worth noting that by ‘Ultimate’, they of course mean that it does not include Enter the Dragon, but does helpfully include not only Game of Death, but also Game of Death 2. The makers of this set clearly have their fingers firmly on the pulses of martial arts fans around the nation.

I should say that this is actually only the second Bruce Lee film I've ever seen (at least all the way through), so watching it today, I really had no expectations, other than perhaps an undercurrent of quiet snobbish hope that it would suck so I could feel quietly superior to all those fools that loudly trumpet his films. Unfortunately, I did end up liking it quite a bit, so that plan went right out the window. A large part of my enjoyment came not from the plot itself, but from the sheer style oozing out of the movie. The soundtrack, a bombastic and funky mix that sounds sort of like Curtis Mayfield and George Clinton teaming up to do a Bond score, works like a charm, and the hyper-kinetic directing, with lots of swooping camera movements and quick cuts that actually enhance the action rather than making it harder to follow, went a long way towards making the movie great. The odd dubbing was interesting as well; at one point, Lee’s cousin sneeringly taunts a gang that’s threatening to beat him up by going “Just you four lousy guys?” while facing down five of them. One may ask why I had it dubbed, and that’s because I vaguely, and mistakenly, thought I had read some customer reviews on Amazon complaining that this set only had the movies available dubbed, rather than offering the original Chinese soundtracks. I only thought to check during the end fight, and learned that Bruce Lee makes weird animal sounds when he’s not fighting in English.

I don’t have much to say about the story itself, but I did rather enjoy one aspect of it. I’ve been watching a lot of martial arts movies lately, and way too many of them have the protagonist deciding that just beating up the bad guys is going to stop them for good. It looked for a while like this film was going to follow in that pattern, up until there was about half an hour to go, when he grabs a knife off of one of his enemies while surrounded by a small army of thugs, and then proceeds to STAB THE LIVING FUCK OUT OF THEM like a madman. It was a beautiful thing.

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