The Bruce Lee biopic is formulaic and lacks the thrust of his punch
The story picks up only when two Asian martial arts masters face-off in a spectacular display of skills
Never mind Jackie Chan, Jet Li and other popular chop-socky heroes, 44 years after his death, Bruce Lee still remains the foremost legend in martial arts.
Lee’s origin story focuses on a brutal ballet of kung-fu, involving the ambitious young immigrant Lee (Philip Ng) and an established Shaolin master (Yu Xia).
Although the outcome of the privately sponsored 1964 San Francisco contest between Bruce Lee and Wong Jack Man has been the subject of debate over the decades, there is no denying that it propelled Bruce Lee to superstardom.
Birth of the Dragon is formulaic stuff derived from a script full of longueurs. After a somewhat sluggish start, which introduces us to Lee’s ineffectual Caucasian student (Billy Magnussen), the story kicks into high gear with the two Asian opponents showcasing their differing martial arts skills.
The pulverising action sequences, including a climactic dance of destruction in a Chinese restaurant, are choreographed by the celebrated Hong Kong-based ‘martial arts designer’ Corey Yuen. Apart from the two principal stars none of the other actors display any evidence of acting ability.
Director George Nelfi (The Adjustment Bureau, 2011) paints a fairly conventional portrait of the action icon whose street fighting style was anything but conventional. Overall, Birth of the Dragon showcases sufficient kick-ass moves to thrill the legion of Bruce Lee fans.