Review: Way of the Dragon-Meng long guo jiang (1972)


Directed by: Bruce Lee | 95 minutes | action, drama, thriller, comedy, crime | Actors: Bruce Lee, Nora Miao, Chuck Norris, Ping-Ao Wei, Chung-Hsin Huang, Robert Wall, Ing-Sik Whang, Tony Liu, Unicorn Chan, Malisa Longo, Fu Ching Chen, Chin Ti, Wu Ngan, Robert Chen , Jon T. Benn

After his first roles in series (“The Green Hornet”) and films (“The Big Boss” and “Fist of Fury”), Bruce Lee wanted to take more control of his hitherto successful career. His third project under the direction of producer Raymond Chow was therefore directed and written by him. After the earlier successes, Lee had a larger budget available for “Way of the Dragon”. This can be deduced from the beautiful locations in Rome where the film is set. The participation of well-known martial arts artists such as Robert Wall, Ing-Sik Whang and (now cult icon) Chuck Norris also meant more exposure for the film. The omens were favorable for Lee’s directorial debut …

Yet, despite being financially successful, “Way of the Dragon” is reportedly worth $ 85 million worldwide, not an overwhelming film. This has a number of reasons. The script, written by Lee himself, has quite a few flaws. For example, the situation around Lee’s uncle who is under pressure from the mafia is not explored. The small guest role of Italian B star Malisa Longo, which is intended as a contrast sketch with regard to the manners between Asia and Europe, seems to be more in the film to make use of Longo’s beautiful body. And further backgrounds regarding the mafia organization and their relationship with the restaurant owner or the background of Tang Lung himself are not given. Moreover, Lee incorporated some comical scenes in the film that are somewhat funny in themselves but do not fit in the film at all and also suffer from his poor acting performance. Because although he was still being directed by director Lo Wei in “Fist of Fury” in a dramatic scene that was quite enjoyable, in “Way of the Dragon” he shows that he is still not a great actor.

On the other hand, the fight scenes as we are used to from Lee are fine again. The final scene in the Colosseum with Chuck Norris is one of the moments in which the film excels. This scene is the reason for many to remember “Way of the Dragon” and rightly so. The fight is well filmed using some slow-motion footage and Lee makes excellent use of the Colosseum’s architecture here (although the scene doesn’t seem to be shot entirely on location). A battle on an epic scale that provides an extra half star, and a strong end to a not entirely successful directorial debut.