Written by: Ron Cotton on September 12th, 2004
Theatrical Release Date: Hong Kong – March 21, 1981
Director: Ne See Yuen
Writers: Ting Chak Luen and Ho Tin Sing
Cast: Bruce Lee, Tong Lung, Roy Chiao, and Wong Ching Lei
DVD released: May 25, 2004
Approximate running time: 96 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: DTS English, Dolby Digital 5.1 English
DVD Release: Fortune Star
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $9.99
Synopsis: Bruce Lee plays as Billy Lo, a strong Jeet Kune Do fighter. Billy Lo and his friend Chin Ku (Wong Ching Lei) been challenged repeatedly out of the blue by all those who wish to disprove their martial arts superiority, because as Bruce Lee states, “Everyone wants to be number one.” Billy Lo goes to the temple and disciplines him in a letter guiding his troublesome brother, the absent Bobby Lo (Tai Chung Kim). Billy Lo hunts down clues for Chin Ku’s mysterious illness that later lead to his death. At Chin Ku’s funeral, a gang piloting a helicopter hijacks the coffin. Billy Lo’s fails to stop their attempt and instead leads to his demise. After the tiny montage/tribute to Bruce Lee, the movie fades in with Bobby Lo as the new lead pushes forward to find closure to his brother’s murder. He goes to Japan to meet with Sherman Lan to collect more clues. As the story progresses, the death of Chin Ku seems related to Billy Lo’s death.
All of the elements found in an old school martial arts film, specifically a Bruce Lee film is here. No stone seems unturned: The overbearing white guy with curly hair, the overuse of animals, a diverse use in fighting styles. This doesn’t fix the blaring problems in this film. Poor use of flashback, at one point a flashback happens about 10 minutes later to replay a scene, and if I’m not mistaken one flashback Bobby Lo has is Billy Lo’s memory. As they talk, the dialog is very humdrum with no emotion. Nobody here is going to be awarded Oscars. You’d think bad dialog could be a good thing. It’s emotionally dry, and at times reads like it’s out of a children’s book. They note and overemphasis the obvious, yet not in a ridiculously funny way. Add on top of that the strong gaps in syllables as they speak. The execution of this is bad and not in the good way either. In my estimation, acting was going out of style in the early 80s.
The martial arts scenes were well rehearsed and are the gem of this film. As Billy takes the box from May, then thugs immediately enter to stop Billy Lo, this is when the martial arts reach its pinnacle. Also, objects are thrown into the fray to aid the numerous fighting scenes. Glasses, Pots, and even Tea all become weapons to the aggressor’s downfall. Yuen Woo Ping’s inventive choreography goes well beyond the expected, throwing kicks and punches that are never simple or expected and yet working this seamlessly into the movie. His style in the Matrix Series and Kill Bill is evidenced in Game of Death II.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround captures all the action packed swings and snaps made between the combatants. Each hit has a definite audio direction and location that fits the scene. This fantastic mix becomes completely out of place in comparison with the rest of the audio. The musical tracks sound very flat and not re-mastered at all, leading to some extremely heavily muffled vocals. The musical arrangement of horns and guitar and the beats created by Frankie Chan is perfect camp, reminding the viewer to past memories of porn soundtracks and the 70′s. The English dub is manageable, but not memorable. Again, the fight scenes are the most memorable on this release, thanks to the 20th Century Foxes remix and amazing work of Yuen Woo Ping. Some purists would have appreciated a simple stereo track.
The mystery wasn’t really a mystery. You feel led from one person to another with the same basic problem that most bad martial arts scripts have: dialog then fighting scene the dialog ad infinitum. Roy Horan’s horrible acting is something to behold which becomes highly enjoyable for each additional sitting. The other actors were simply marginal. This movie is a perfect rent to those who love Bruceploitation or love high action fight scenes. As for the scripting or story, don’t set the bar to high for this kung fu flick.