Before Bruce Lee moved to America, becoming a kung-fu teacher to the stars and eventually the cream of martial arts cinema, he was one of many siblings in a popular family, had to cope with the semi-celebrity of being a child actor and survive the rough and tumble streets of 50’s Honk Kong.
Based on the book and observations of Bruce Lee’s younger brother Robert, Young Bruce Lee acts as a near prequel to the 90’s biopic Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, its entire running time focusing on the period of life that the latter film skips over in its opening fifteen minutes. However, where Dragon played very, very loose with anything approaching actual fact, we can assume, judging from the source material, that Young Bruce Lee is somewhat closer to the true events, though, the details in any biopic should always be taken with a grain of salt, as a rule of thumb.
Viewed with this in mind, the film is quite informative to even the hardened Bruce Lee fan as much of the feature revolves around Lee’s relationships with his friends and family, rather than his path to becoming a martial arts god.
Viewed as a piece of entertainment in its own right it doesn’t stand up quite so well. Though it is exquisite looking throughout, the story varies from risible melodrama at its best to sub soap-opera-ish at its worst. It IS a biopic, and though there is a burst of action within the final fifteen minutes, should in no way be taken as an action film, those who watch it under this pretence will no doubt be sorely disappointed.
The pace is a little choppy, as is generally the case with biopics that explore a wide expanse of time, and the end result is quite episodic, with the different scenes connecting via a tenuous voice over. There are also a few scenes that, to those of us outside of Hong Kong, may seem entirely pointless. Scenes that incorporate popular peoples and events that logically must anchor the production to a set period in time for those who understand the references.
Little more can be said, it has points of interest and looks great, but as a whole is relatively lightweight.
D grade – for originality
C grade – for storytelling
B+ grade – for visuals
C grade – for acting
Overall grade – C
Young Bruce Lee is released on region 2, 2 disc DVD and Blu-ray on May 30, 2011 courtesy of Cine Asia.
As is getting to be a habit with Cine Asia, an excellent world exclusive documentary, Memories Of The Master, has been produced for the release that includes interviews with Lee’s friends, family and business acquaintances, film historians and professionals as well as presentations of rare and unseen photos from Lee’s past.
Also available are the usual, but equally excellent, commentary by Hong Kong film expert Bey Logan, ‘making of’ featurettes and deleted scenes.
Watch the trailer…