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“Birth of the Dragon” was a birth of disaster

Ulises Duenas

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I went into “Birth of the Dragon” expecting to see a fictional Bruce Lee beat up some fictional bad guys. This movie did technically deliver on that promise, but after a while, I realized I was duped. Watching “Birth of the Dragon” was like using a monkey’s paw. You might get what you wanted, but it’s not worth the price.

The trailer for the movie said it was inspired by real events, specifically the real-life conflict between Bruce Lee and Wong Jack Man. The root of this conflict was Bruce Lee teaching non-Chinese people how to fight in his San Francisco dojo.

The premise has the potential for a great movie. Unfortunately, the execution doesn’t fully commit to the idea. “Birth of the Dragon” markets itself as a biography, so you’d expect the focus of the movie to be on Bruce Lee and his rise to movie stardom and legendary status in the martial arts community. Instead, the movie decides to focus on a guy named Steve McKee.

Unlike Bruce Lee and Wong Jack Man, Steve McKee didn’t really exist. He’s just some random chump that was written into the movie for the sake of giving it a more traditional plot. You’d a figure a movie called “Birth of the Dragon” would be all about Bruce Lee becoming who he is, but the movie makes it seem like, if it weren’t for Steve, none of the events that transpired in real life would have happened.

The focus on Steve is even more insulting, considering the actors portraying Lee and Wong do a great job in their performances. The writing is bad, even for a kung-fu movie, but it could have all been saved by the action scenes.

If you’ve seen Bruce Lee’s movies, then you know what the action scenes are like. Fast, cheesy, a lot of yelling but still entertaining. The action scenes in “Birth of the Dragon” are a mixed bag. Sometimes you’ll get a scene with good choreography, nice editing and just the right amount of cheesiness. Other times, you’ll get scenes that are comically bad.

I’d be more forgiving if this were like an old Bruce Lee movie but calling “Birth of the Dragon” a Bruce Lee movie is like calling the Star Wars prequels the Jar Jar Binks trilogy. I’ve had my car broken into before and I felt more robbed with “Birth of the Dragon.” Usually, when talking about a movie, I try to think of the kind of audience it can satisfy. In trying to do too many things at once “Birth of the Dragon” doesn’t do any of them well.

[Final Score 1/5]

Ulises Duenas can be reached at artseditor@theorion.com or @OrionUlisesD on Twitter.

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“Birth of the Dragon” was a birth of disaster