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Film / Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story

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"The key to immortality is first living a life worth remembering."

A 1993 loose Biopic of Bruce Lee, Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story tells of the legendary martial artist and movie star as he deals with his duality as continuing a strong Chinese heritage while embracing his identity as an American. Jason Scott Lee (no relation) plays Bruce, Lauren Holly plays his American wife Linda and Robert Wagner plays Hollywood producer Bill Krieger.

The movie opts for a slightly fantastical subplot of a demon haunting his family in their nightmares and their efforts to fight back. As expected, there are liberties taken with the actual history and timeline of Bruce Lee (his book on Jeet Kune Do was never published in his lifetime), but the film pays an honest tribute to how revolutionary a man he was and his influence in both the East and West.

A year later, it received a Licensed Game available for Sega's consoles, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, and the Atari Jaguar. It contextualizes the story as a series of fights inspired by Bruce's films and personal life, as well as introducing a metaphysical villain known as the Phantom, representing Bruce's fear of death. Interestingly, it utilized three-person multiplayer, each player controlling a clone of Bruce.

Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story Provides Examples of:

  • And You Thought It Would Fail: Happens In-Universe at the premiere of The Big Boss. Bruce begins thinking the audience hates it, and attempts to sneak before the credits, but the audience gives a standing ovation.
  • Artistic License – History: Enough for its own page. As said above, it's a very loose biopic.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: At different points in the film, Bruce and Linda are show having intense arguments, but in the end, before filming a scene in Enter the Dragon, Bruce tells Linda "I forgot to tell you I love you.", making her say "That's probably the first time you've ever said that.".
  • Badass Boast: Bruce gets a subtle and effective one in on some (initially) racist jocks who try to rough him up. The inevitable ass kicking they get from him makes them approach him later and ask if he can teach them to fight that well, too.
    Bruce: (after one of them shoulder barges him) Don't touch me!
    Jock: Or what?
    Bruce: (smiling) Or I'll touch you back.
  • Battle in the Rain: The final fight with the Demon.
  • Big Bad: The Demon.
  • Big "NO!": Bruce, when the Demon shows him his grave.
  • Brick Joke: Ruby Chow, Bruce's boss at the Chinese restaurant fires Bruce for fighting. After giving him his week pay and severance, she also gives him what she calls an "All Purpose Loan.". When Bruce asks what it's for, she sarcastically claims that he should take his then girlfriend April out for a fancy dinner and when the money and April are gone he will come back to work for Chow to pay it off, which she believes would take him well into his old age. She really wanted him to use the money to get a better education and in turn better life. Bruce later comes back, using the money he made in his first Kung Fu Gym to pay back the loan.
  • Briefs Boasting: Like many American men of his time, this depiction of Bruce wears plain white briefs, as shown in two scenes here. The first time is when he is alone in his room (before he met his future wife Linda) reading while wearing naught but his briefs and his glasses, and is interrupted by his then-lover. Later, he is seen in his underpants again with a matching white A-shirt (AKA tank top) when talking with Linda, who incidentally is wearing black underwear; perhaps this is meant to be symbolic of yin and yang...?! On a related note: in real life, his first appearance in Enter the Dragon has him participate in a sparring match (with Sammo Hung) clad in all black gear - including wrestling briefs.
  • But Not Too Foreign: Discussed. On the set of The Green Hornet, a network executive is shown commenting about Bruce "He's awfully Oriental...", but producer Bill Krieger assures him nothing is wrong with Bruce, because he's merely "playing Oriental" as Kato. Regardless, the executive asks him if he can stay masked at all times, and it also prevents Bruce from starring in Kung Fu (1972), despite helping develop it with Krieger.
  • The Cameo: Van Williams (Britt Reid from The Green Hornet series) appears as the director in the Green Hornet scene.
    • Also, during the party where Linda tells Bruce that she's pregnant for a second time, the woman singing is the real-life result of that very pregnancy, Shannon Lee.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Bruce does this after suffering from a nightmare involving the Demon in the beginning.
  • Creator Cameo: Director Rob Cohen appears as Enter the Dragon director Robert Clouse.
  • Curbstomp Battle: A lot, seeing as it's a movie about Bruce Lee, including (but not limited to) the fight versus the sailors, the gym jocks, the cooks...
  • David vs. Goliath: Bruce Lee Vs. The Demon
  • Defeat Means Friendship: When a group of students (fueled by anti-Asian sentiment regarding a Dad being killed in the Korean War) attack Bruce at a gym he proceeded to wipe the floor with them. When it was over Bruce's empathy to his attacker ("I'm sorry about your Dad. But I'm American.") and fighting prowess impressed the group and they asked to be trained, starting Bruce on the path as an instructor.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: The anti-Asian attitudes that Bruce constantly encounters. The Ethnic Scrappies in Breakfast at Tiffany's could be found all over cinematic at the time, and even Linda laughs, until she sees Bruce's reaction to it.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: Happens In-Universe, as Bruce is extremely unamused with Mickey Rooney's infamous depiction of Mr. Yunioshi in Breakfast at Tiffany's.
  • Foreshadowing: Towards the beginning, Bruce is depicted idolizing James Dean, another movie icon that passed away at a young age.
  • Genius Bruiser: It is acknowledged that Bruce did study some philosophy while in college. He is also shown writing his book and combining the philosophical styles of many different martial arts.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: In-Universe. While the Green Hornet lasts only a couple of seasons, it was immensely popular in Hong Kong, many Hong Kong residents considered Kato to be the main character thus it is marketed as the Kato Show.
  • The Ghost: Wong Jack Man is briefly mentioned as one of the Chinese instructors who complained about Bruce teaching non-Chinese. Curiously, he himself doesn't appear in the movie and instead, it's Johnny Sun, a fictionalized stand-in for Wong, who fights Bruce Lee in their infamous private Chinatown fight.
  • Groin Attack: Bruce gives one to the head cook during their fight.
  • Hall of Mirrors: Bruce is shown shooting the iconic Hall of Mirrors scene in Enter the Dragon when he faces his family demon for the last time.
  • Homage: The fights in this movie are in a similar style as Lee's films, which causes a bit of discrepancy with his real life fighting philosophy, which was much more practical and straightforward (and certainly did not involve gratuitous backflips in the middle of a life or death fight.)
    • At one point, Bruce wears a yellow leather jacket that looks like his iconic tracksuit from Game of Death.
  • I Shall Taunt You: Bruce does this as he fights an American Jerk Jock.
    Bruce: Chinks can jump more higher!
    Jock: Fight me, you bastard!
  • Kick The Son Of A Bitch: Bruce's beatdown of a racist British sailor at the Hong Kong Lantern Festival towards the beginning. It gets him in trouble with the Hong Kong police and leads to him facing criminal charges that force him to leave Hong Kong, but who's really feeling sorry for the sailor?
  • Maligned Mixed Marriage: Referenced by Linda's mother when she objects to her marrying Bruce. She even refers to possible mixed-race grandchildren as "yellow babies". To her credit, once the marriage goes ahead she makes a deliberate effort to reconcile with them.
  • Off the Rails: During filming of The Big Boss, as Bruce finds himself fighting Johnny Sun's brother, the director and cameramen are initially confused by what's apparently happening off-script, but decide to film it anyway. However, after the fight, Bruce destroys the footage, upsetting the director, who says that was some of the best fighting he'd ever seen.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Towards the beginning, Bruce is excited to travel to the U.S. because it's a land of opportunity. Flash forward a decade later, and Bruce has moved with his family back to Hong Kong.
    Bruce: I'm somebody here, I'm special. Back there, I'm just another gook. Just another wetback, two-bit coolie Charlie Chan no-nothing dishwasher from a fishy-stinking restaurant!
    (He shoves some stuff off a table)
    Bruce: (in stereotypical accent) Wash your shirt, meestah white man? Please, no tickee, no shirtee! Order one from column A and one from column B! Me happy to build the railroads! Me happy to dig the mines for you, meestah white man!
  • Small Name, Big Ego: The portrayal of Van Williams in the brief The Green Hornet scene. Evidently this was for comedy and emphasizing Kato's Breakout Character nature, but Bruce and Van actually became good friends on the show and remained that way afterwards (Van himself cameos in the aforementioned scene as the director).
  • Stock Footage: Much of the premiere and edit scenes of Bruce's movies, used real footage from Bruce's Movies.
  • Tempting Fate: "I can beat any man in this room in sixty seconds!" Bruce is about to learn a lesson that (in kayfabe) pro wrestlers often learn the hard way: open challenges always get answered, usually by the one(s) you'd least like to face. Subverted in that Bruce wins the challenge, knocking his rival clear into the audience after 58 seconds.
  • Throw It In!: In-universe, Bruce improvises a complex action scene for The Green Hornet, after he was supposed to just win with one punch.
  • Training from Hell: Bruce inflicted it upon himself, and the movie did reference the fact that he was willing to try any and all possible training methods.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: It claims to be the story of Bruce Lee's life, but it gets many things wrong, among them the timeline of his life, his "famous" match with Johnny Sun, his book's publication before his death, and the nature of his back injury. It also adds extra fights to the movie (such as one turning Shih Kien, who played Han in Enter the Dragon, into a covert Chinese assassin out to kill Lee), and invented an extra subplot involving a demon chasing Bruce Lee and his son in his nightmares.
  • Yellowface: Mickey Rooney's Mr. Yunioshi, one of the most notorious examples, is shown. Bruce is deeply appalled by this portrayal, contrasting how he would soon change the way Asian Americans were portrayed.

"Three weeks before the opening of Enter the Dragon, the movie that would bring him into international fame, Bruce fell into a mysterious coma and died. He was 32. Thousands of fans have gathered in Hong Kong for the funeral. I buried him in America so he can be close to us. There are many people that want to know the way he died, I want to remember the way he lived."