Cast: Bruce Lee, John Saxon, Ahna Capri, Robert Wall, Shih Kien, Jim Kelly, Bolo Yeung
SUMMARY: In Hong Kong, Shaolin monk and expert martial artist Lee (Bruce Lee) is living a quiet life in a monastery when he is approached by Braithwaite, who is part of an intelligence community. Braithwaite tells of a man named Han (Shih Kien), who was once part of the same monastery, but has since gone rogue. Now, he is the head of a vast criminal enterprise whose activities include narcotics and prostitution. Han and his men live on a private island, but once every few years, he hosts a martial arts tournament on the same island, the only time outsiders are allowed on it. Braithwaite and his organization know exactly what Han is doing, but they have no proof: they therefore ask Lee to enter the tournament (to which he has already been invited) and act as a spy in the process. Lee is reluctant to do so, but when he learns that this same gang is responsible for the death of his sister, he agrees to participate. On the trip to the island, Lee meets fellow competitors and friends Roper (John Saxon) and Williams (Jim Kelly), who are also both experts. Williams is also a heavy gambler, and in his first tournament fight works with Roper to win a large bet.
At night, Lee begins his search of the island. He quickly finds an underground facility, but has to leave quickly before he is spotted. However, Han’s men have noticed that a fighter was not in his room all evening. They think it was Roper (who was also outside that evening), and question him. Roper refuses to give away any information, and with this and his fighting prowess, Han offers him a place in his criminal organization. Roper flat-out refuses. Han next approaches Williams, who also refuses. Han then shows him Roper’s mutilated body, which only makes Han angrier. Meanwhile, Lee has gotten back into the facility and radioed for military help. He fights off several guards, but is eventually surrounded and taken prisoner. The next day, both Lee and Williams are forced to fight Han’s huge bodyguard, O’Hara (Robert Wall). They have already seen O’Hara kill one man during the tournament, but by working together they defeat him. Han next sics his horde of students on them, but a cohort of Lee’s frees the prisoners kept in the underground facility, and they throw themselves into the fight. Lee chases Han into his display room, where he keeps various hand attachments (he has a fake hand, which he can change out with a hook, bear paw, various other weapons, etc.). Lee lands numerous attacks on Han, but is also scratched on his face, chest, stomach and back. Han then runs into a room of mirrors, where Lee cannot easily find him. The two land infrequent hits on each other, but have trouble locating the other man until Lee begins smashing all of the mirrors. A final fight erupts, and Lee finally kills Han on a spear. He then returns outside to where Williams and the captives are still fighting, just in time to see his military friends arriving to help.
MY TAKE: I’m sure I’m going to shock some people when I say that this is my first Bruce Lee movie. I was pretty excited to watch it, since he’s supposed to be the granddaddy of martial arts movies, but I was kind of disappointed. I found it rather . . . blah. I’m not why that is. It seemed a little like a knockoff James Bond movie, although Bruce Lee is a way better fighter than Bond. Bond gets his ass kicked at least once per movie. I guess I did not find the villain, Han, particularly threatening, and even though the fight sequences were obviously well-choreographed (by Lee himself) they got repetitive. Better technology, like more innovative camera work and angles, probably would have helped this. Han just seemed like a cheesy villain, and his team of bodyguards/students are lousy fighters. It didn’t make for much suspense, which I think is key in an action movie. It came off like a movie created solely for Bruce Lee’s fighting, like they decided to make a movie around him, and then built a plot up around that. Doesn’t work very well, although Lee is obviously an incredible martial artist.
RATING: Not horrible, but disappointing.