Way of the Dragon | aka Return of the Dragon (1972) Review

"Way of the Dragon" Chinese Theatrical Poster

“Way of the Dragon” Chinese Theatrical Poster

Director: Bruce Lee
Writer: Bruce Lee
Producer: Raymond Chow
Cast: Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Gam Dai, Unicorn Chan, Anthony Lau, Nora Miao, Wang In Sik, Paul Wei, Bob Wall, Jon Benn, Anders Nelsson, Riccardo Billi, Alexander Grand
Running Time: 96 min.

By Jesse

Bruce Lee’s 1973 film Return of the Dragon (which was also written and directed by Lee) tells the tale of a young farmboy from Hong Kong who travels to Rome in order to help rid his uncle’s restaurant of the local thugs who aim to make it their own by any means possible. Dragon is filled with cheesy acting, has a poorly-written script, and isn’t very well told… but what it does have is Bruce Lee kicking a lot of ass in it. Which is really the only reason why you would watch a Lee film to begin with. Though Bruce isn’t the greatest actor, he does have a certain charm and charisma that can clearly be seen while watching any one of his movies.

One of the most unrealistic aspects of the film though is how Lee’s character Tang Lung transitions from a naive and somewhat innocent countryman to an all-out beast full of rage in fury in no time. But like I said, the reason why we watch Bruce Lee movies is for the exciting and rip-roaring fights featured, not for the technical aspects. And watching Lee in action is certainly a marvel to behold. In Return of the Dragon, we get to witness the typical Lee with double nunchuks vs. a whole gang of guys action sequence, as well as the always watchable one on one fight scenes where Lee shows the audience how fast and furious (2 fast… haha, sorry) he really is.

The highlight of the film occurs at the end when Lee is forced to do battle with his real-life friend and protege Bob Wall (in which he quietly defeats him by giving him a quick punch in the nuts), and the soon to be famous Chuck Norris. The Lee vs. Norris fight is certainly something unique as we watch Lee’s ancient style of Chinese Kung Fu clash with Norris’ extremely harsh and robotic forum of Japanese Karate. I won’t tell you what the outcome of the fight is, but if you’ve ever seen a Bruce Lee movie or have an ounce of intelligence in your head I’m sure you can figure out what it is.

Nora Miao also stars as a friend of the family who provides shelter for Lung as he helps his uncle out, and while her character (and the actress herself) is a bit-one dimensional, she provides a nice piece of eye candy that’s sure to keep the men in the audience pleased. So if you’re looking for a brainless actioner with plenty of heart-pounding action, look no further.

Jesse’s Rating: 7.5/10


By James H.

The Good: Bruce Lee (obviously). His directing, acting, fights. You name it, he’s good at it. Nora Miao is also good, and just beautiful too. As I said, the fights are good, but they are more than that. The last 30 minutes or so are incredible. The finale with Norris is breath-taking.

The Bad: Flamboyantly gay bad guys aren’t too threatening, even if they have guns. Also, the acting, besides Bruce and Nora, is just atrocious. Of course, I had to see the American release with the very irritating dubbing (when you dub a movie, it would be wise to get voice actors with voices that aren’st grating). Also, the sound effects are exaggerated and out of synch. The plot is also pretty damn thin, but hey, this is a martial arts movie.

Bottom Line: Chuck Norris is one hairy dude.

James H’s Rating: 7.5/10


By S!DM

Lee’s first full-fledged film-making effort, Way of the Dragon sees Bruce writing, directing, and starring in what I consider his crowning achievement. Bruce absolutely took charge of this film; The burden of film perfection rested squarely on his own shoulders. At the time of pre-production, Golden Harvest had a tailor-made script prepared for Lee, called The Yellow-Faced Tiger, which Bruce was sincerely thinking about making, but he felt that with Way of the Dragon, he could have full control. From casting the characters to playing percussion!

Working 14 hours a day, Bruce and his crew worked tirelessly in both Hong Kong and Rome, to bring you the tale of Tang Lung, a country bumpkin sent to Italy to help his Uncle’s ailing restaurant business. Little does he know that a gang of mobsters want the restaurant for their own reasons, setting the pace for incredible fighting scenes. Excellent battles ensue between Lee and super-kicking Whang In-Sik, and champs Bob Wall and Chuck Norris, in an incredible finale fight, arguably Lee’s best (and with good reason; Lee had 20 pages of notes prepared for his duel with Norris). Lee’s best film is definitely Way of the Dragon.

S!DM’s Rating: 10/10

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One Response to Way of the Dragon | aka Return of the Dragon (1972) Review

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