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The Legend of Bruce Lee
2008; directed by Lee Moon-Ki

Originally released in 2008 as a fifty episode television series in Mainland China, The Legend of Bruce Lee was put out in the US in 2010 by Lionsgate, who condensed the story into a three hour long movie. These kinds of edits usually end up turning the story into an incomphrensible mess, and this one is no exception. What makes matters even worse are the wide liberties that the creators took with events in Lee's life, which makes this release come off as really nothing more than a glossier version of an oldschool "Bruceploitation" picture.

The Legend of Bruce Lee    The Legend of Bruce Lee

Lee here is played by Danny Chan, who, because of his resemblance to the Little Dragon, was picked by Stephen Chow for roles in Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle. So he certainly has Lee's look and mannerisms down. But when it comes to the acting? Actually, that element is still a mystery, because the DVD is dubbed in Mandarin and English, neither of which are done very well, with both of the voices for Bruce sounding way off from where they're supposed to be. Never mind that as a Hong Kong resident, Lee would have been speaking Cantonese, not Mandarin.

The Legend of Bruce Lee    The Legend of Bruce Lee

The language mish-mash mismatch is just the tip of the iceberg. For something that is supposed to be the definitive look into the life of Bruce Lee, to the point that Bruce's daughter, Shannon, was one of the executive producers, the proceedings just feel far too sloppy. Some smaller things such as seeing 2007 era advertisements (one being for John Woo's video game Stranglehold) or modern day vehicles in the background of various shots could be forgiven, but facets like outright embellishments, such as saying Lee was both the California and United States karate champion are almost insulting to those fans who have actually done their homework. If not insulting, some of the elements that take "artistic license" are just ridiculous, such as when Lee's near-paralyzing back injury is explained by him being hit with a log during a fight. Ugh.

The Legend of Bruce Lee    The Legend of Bruce Lee

In The Legend of Bruce Lee's defense, there are some positive elements here. Perhaps not surprisingly, they come from the fight scenes. Despite the use of gimmicks like wirework and Street Fighter-style X-ray effects that would be the opposite of what Lee -- who wanted to portray "pure" martial arts onscreen -- would use, the fights (which were co-ordinated by Ma Zhong-Xuan) are shockingly good when compared to the rest of the footage. Featuring an international cast of notable talents such as Mark Dacascos, Ray Park, and Gary Daniels, the fight scenes are actually quite fun. But there just isn't enough of them to save this release. It simply is not worth sitting through three hours' worth of sub-par cinematic storytelling to see perhaps ten to fifteen minutes of quality onscreen fighting.


The Legend of Bruce Lee

Update - November 2016

Well Go USA has released the first in a set of DVDs that feature the entire fifty episode series. The first release, put under the title The Legend of Bruce Lee: Volume One, contains three DVDs with the first ten episodes of the series, each of which runs approximately for a hour. The soundtrack is available in an English dub only, and there are no extras.

Unfortunately, seeing all of the footage does not do too much in improving the overall product. In fact, it may actually make things a bit worse, as it adds in more plodding exposition (which, again, takes great liberties with the facts of Lee's life) and things like musical montages. Lots of musical montages. With bad music. Oy vey. At least the fights are decent, but there still aren't enough of them to make this anything but a curiosity for die-hard Bruce Lee fans.

The DVDs are available from Amazon.

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