Dynamo (1978) Review

"Dynamo" US Theatrical Poster

“Dynamo” US Theatrical Poster

Director: Yi Hwa Hsi, I-Jung Hua
Writer: Chin Wei Lin
Cast: Bruce Li (aka Ho Chung Tao, James Ho), James Griffiths, Mary Ha, Feng Ku, Hoi San Lee, Steve Sanders, Joseph Soto, George Yirikian, Yuen Shun Yee
Running Time: 90 min.

By Joe909

For the first half of the film, Dynamo is one of the best Bruce Li movies out there, certainly as good as his best flick of all, “Chinese Stuntman.” It has action, comedy, great kung-fu, and most importantly, solid pacing. Miles above the usual Bruce Li flick, which features pointless fight after pointless, numbing fight. But unfortunately, Dynamo just can’t hold itself up, and by the 60-minute mark it collapses into “just another Bruce Li movie,” complete with the aforementioned, pointless fight scenes.

Dynamo’s plot is very similar to that of “Chinese Stuntman.” In fact, in some ways it seems that Bruce Li (aka Ho Chun Tao) realized that Dynamo had some problems, and attempted to rectify them in “Chinese Stuntman,” which he wrote and directed. It’s a shame, because Dynamo could’ve been a great flick on its own. I laughed throughout the first half of the movie, and don’t think I was laughing out of derision; it was out of pure enjoyment.

Like “Chinese Stuntman,” the best thing about Dynamo is Bruce’s interaction with his only friend in the flick, his grizzled, hard-drinking teacher. The teacher might be washed up, but his kung-fu skills are still excellent. “Attack me whenever you want,” he instructs Bruce, “because I’ll do the same.” This leads to lots of surprise moments in the film, as Bruce will just be jogging around, or going about his business, but will suddenly launch an attack against the teacher, who is, of course, always prepared. The teacher pushes Bruce relentlessly, making him a better martial artist.

This wouldn’t be a Bruce Li movie if there wasn’t some weird stuff going on. Twice in the film, we get these extended fight scenes of some Bruce Lee-looking guy taking on opponents. First he fights some Japanese guys in a scene very much like that in “Fist of Fury,” and then fighting some opponents in the desert. Only then do we realize that this guy is supposed to be the “real” Bruce Lee, and Bruce Li is just thinking about him! Yes, it’s just as weird as it sounds.

Things go swimmingly until sixty minutes into the movie. Bruce goes across the world for various films, and is attacked everywhere. He goes skiing in Korea, gets attacked. He goes to America, gets attacked a bunch of times, even by a bellhop who pretends to be a fan. The scenes in “America” are really funny. This movie obviously didn’t have the budget to fly to the US, so they had to do a little improvising. When Bruce fights a black opponent in an underground parking lot, you can see on the door behind them a sign that reads “exit.” However, this sign is obviously handwritten, and taped to the door. Yep, just like in America.

Bruce’s girlfriend gets abducted, and he must fight an overweight monster of an opponent in a tournament. This fight is underwhelming and possibly the least interesting in the flick, even though it’s supposed to be the climactic, final battle. However, Bruce does wear a variation on the Game of Death tracksuit; it’s orange and white. He also wears the Game of Death tracksuit itself, earlier in the film, except the black stripes seem to be blue on his version.

Bruce Li is the best thing about the movie, as usual. His moves are genuinely fast, and he’s a capable martial artist through and through. I know I’m in the minority, but this is really how I feel: you can keep your Jackie Chan. I’d rather watch Bruce Li any day.

Joe909’s Rating: 6.5/10

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