Bruce Lee: In Pursuit of the Dragon (2009) Review

Bruce Lee: A Warrior's Journey & Pursuit of the Dragon | DVD (MVD Entertainment)

Bruce Lee: A Warrior’s Journey & Pursuit of the Dragon | DVD (MVD Entertainment)

Director: John Little
Writer: John Little
Cast: John Little, Bruce Lee, Malisa Longo, Jon T. Benn, Anders Nelsson, Riccardo Billi, Chaplin Chang
Running Time: 90 minutes

By Jeff Bona

If you’re a die hard Bruce Lee fanatic and you’re sick and tired of all the countless Bruce Lee documentaries that contain the same footage, usual interview clips and a bunch of other “talking heads,” then John Little’s In Pursuit of the Dragon is a film you don’t want to miss. It may not have any new or rare visuals of Bruce, but it does contain fascinating content that most fans will find both unique and educational.

The majority of Bruce Lee documentaries are decent, but once you get past the essential ones (Bruce Lee: The Legend, Death by Misadventure and A Warrior’s Journey come to mind), the rest aren’t worth your valuable time. Using the recent I Am Bruce Lee documentary as an example: Do we really care what Mickey Rourke thinks of Bruce’s abilities? So Kobe Bryant practices Jeet Kune Do, and? Should we really give a sh*t that an electro house musician was influenced by Bruce? Don’t get me wrong, these guys are talented, but they don’t belong in a Bruce Lee documentary. An interview with Gene LeBell or Danny Inosanto makes total sense, but Al Bundy? Come on. They might as well interview me.

So what makes Little’s In Pursuit of the Dragon so refreshing and different? In a nutshell, Little and a film crew travel to key locations where Bruce Lee’s four completed films were shot: Thailand (The Big Boss), Macao (Fist of Fury), Rome (Way of the Dragon) and Hong Kong (Enter the Dragon). To a casual Bruce Lee fan, seeing these locations may not seem like a big deal, but to an avid fanatic who has watched Lee’s films countless times, it’s a wondrous experience.

Using footage from the actual movies to coincide with the “what the locations look like today” is simply magical. The outcome is comparable to seeing what The Beatles’ Cavern Club looks like today; or even the actual location where John F. Kennedy was assassinated (not to sound crude or anything).

In addition to the then and now-location footage, Little provides interesting insights and commentary (i.e. what goes on in the The Big Boss “mansion” today). He even interviews obscure cast members, such as the bank teller and the Italian beauty from Way of the Dragon. Also, the current “real” manager of the The Big Boss’ ice factory provides a few anecdotes.

In Pursuit of the Dragon has been available in the UK for a few years, but it was recently released on DVD for the first time in the U.S. It’s currently available as a double feature along with Little’s other Bruce Lee documentary A Warrior’s Journey (read our review).

The bottom line: In Pursuit of the Dragon is a breath of fresh air. It made me want to cash out my savings account, get on a plane and head to Thailand so I can visit The Big Boss’ mansion. If there’s one negative thing to say about it, it’s the lack of then and now-location footage for Bruce’s final film, Game of Death. Other than that, I can’t recommend this film enough!

Check out the then and now screen shots below (If you think they’re cool, wait ’til you see them in motion):

Jeff Bona‘s Rating: 8/10

The ferryboat in the opening of "The Big Boss"

The entrance of the ice factory.

The wooden beam in the center of the ice factory still stands.

Amazingly, the sign Bruce runs under remains. I'm sure it'll end up on ebay one day.

The tree still stands strong.

The interior of "The Big Boss" mansion almost looks identical.

John Little takes us to where no "The Big Boss" fan has gone before.

Other than needing a serious dust job, not much has changed.

The grand staircase to "The Big Boss" mansion.

I bet these goons have some interesting stories, especially the guy with the yellow shirt.

The gate entrance to the "The Big Boss" mansion.

The location where Tony Liu failed at winning Maria Yi's heart.

Just add water.

"No Chinese or dogs allowed" in Macau. The rest of "Fist of Fury" was shot in Golden Harvest studios.

The airport in "Way of the Dragon" has changed, but a hint of 1972 remains.

Riccardo Billi played the bank teller in "Way of the Dragon"

The beautiful Malisa Longo. Interestingly enough, she married Riccardo Billi after the two met on the set of "Way of the Dragon"

Bruce and Nora Miao taking a stroll in Rome.

The location where Bruce and Roy Chiao exchange words in "Enter the Dragon" remains the same.

If only Bolo and his henchmen were there to catch the graffiti artist.

Read our review for Tracking the Dragon, which is essentially an updated version of this documentary.

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