Thursday, November 27, 2014

Bruce Lee's Top 5 Fight Scenes

From time to time, I'll celebrate the birthday of some cinematic figure with a list. It gives me extremely great pleasure to do this today as it is the birthday of one of my idols, the one and only Bruce Lee. He would be turning 74 today, and still be able to kick your ass. Unfortunately, he passed in away in 1973, mere days before the worldwide release of his greatest success, the iconic Enter the Dragon. I won't go in depth about my love for that film in this space. Just read about it, here. For today, I'm just going to run down what I think are his top 5 fight scenes. After all, what better way to celebrate a man who gave his entire life to martial arts, both on and off the screen. In keeping with that notion, it's important to note that Bruce was not only the star of these scenes, he choreographed them.

vs O'Hara
(Enter the Dragon)

This doesn't quite fit the typical model of a great movie fight because it's all one-sided. However, the circumstances surrounding it renders it so. It happens in the middle of the movie, but has the feel of a climactic moment. After all, our hero is fighting the guy that led the pack of animals responsible for his sister's death. Aside from that the speed on display is unbelievable. It gives credence to one of the many Bruce Lee legends: his normal fighting speed was too fast for the cameras. For proof, watch the third time he hits his opponent. If you've never seen it before you might only see the guy's head snap back, but not see the actual blow. It comes after he actually blocks a couple of Bruce's punches. I've watched it in slow motion a number of times and I'm still amazed. Just study the .gif below. Sorry, I couldn't find a slo-mo version of it. Then there's the end of the fight where we feel the release of all that emotion. Acting. Take that, Seagal.

vs A Japanese Dojo
(The Chinese Connection, aka Fist of Fury)

This is Bruce at his nationalist best, taking on the Japanese who've come to China and relegated his people to second class status. On top of that, the people from this particular dojo took it upon themselves to taunt and humiliate his friends and family at the funeral of his master. Yeah, they were asking for it. Anyhoo, Bruce shows up at their place all alone and whips all of their asses. Most impressive, he does it in sets. One set of all kicks, one all punches, then lying on the ground. Finally, he takes out the teacher. His full range of skills is on display, here. This fight serves as the inspiration for another iconic fight scene, by the way. Remember The Bride taking on The Crazy 88 in Kill Bill Vol. 1? Not only did Quentin Tarantino pay homage to Bruce by having his star don one of Lee's classic outfits, he totally borrows from this fight scene, adding a sword, blood, and guts.

vs Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
(Game of Death)

The great shame of Game of Death is that it will never realize its full potential. It's a travesty compounded by how bad the actual movie is. Unfortunately, this is the movie our hero was working when he died. To finish the movie, a few, not just one, stand-ins were brought in, given bad wigs and shot from odd angles. The story is ridiculous and the overall effect is that it's hilariously bad. Luckily, Bruce completed most of the fighting scenes. One of those scenes is this iconic fight between him and basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. By this time, we've already seen Bruce running around in that yellow jumpsuit. What happens to it here is comical. The visual of the beginning of this fight is striking for one simple reason: the difference in height between the combatants. Bruce stood about 5'7". Kareem measured up at 7'2". That's literally more than a foot and a half difference. If you're wondering how Kareem wound up in China filming a kung-fu flick, he was a real life student of Bruce's.

vs Chuck Norris
(Way of the Dragon, aka Return of the Dragon)

First of all, there may be no more epic words in all of spoken language as Bruce Lee vs. Chuck Norris. Okay, there is the possible exception of a deeply sincere uttering of the phrase "I love you," but that's debatable. Here we get two guys who were not only performers on the big screen, but real life martial artists. No training to learn stuff for the movie. These guys trained their entire lives and gave us this masterpiece of cinematic fighting. Pay attention to the way its shot and the way the cat virtually referees the fight. Then, let's make one more mental trip back to Kill Bill Vol. 1. Better yet, just watch that fight between The Bride and O'Ren. Yup, QT once again does a great emulation of one of Bruce's best fight scenes to great effect.

vs the Guards
(Enter the Dragon)

Generally, I don't discuss individual scenes on this blog. I have nothing against those of you that do. In fact, I've loved plenty of posts by my fellow bloggers who have taken the time to break down scenes from their favorite movies. It's just not something I normally do. That makes this entire post an anomaly. This scene in particular is an oddity as it marks the third time I've highlighted it on this blog. The first was during that nostalgic look back at Enter the Dragon that I linked to at the top of this post. The second was part of a post that served as my participation in the My Favorite Scenes blogathon. Just read either, or both of those because I'm not telling you anything about it here. Just click play right above this little paragraph and have fun.

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  1. Lol, probably true. Enter the Dragon is certainly one of my faves.

  2. I've been meaning to check out more of Bruce Lee's films, since I really enjoyed Enter The Dragon. Maybe your post can encourage me to get to it! Didn't know he choreographed scenes, that gives me a new appreciation of the man.

    1. Check them out, ASAP! As far as the man himself goes, I won't go into all the whys here, but lots of people who've dedicated their lives to martial arts consider him the greatest practitioner of them of all time for lots of reasons that have nothing to do with movies. A read through of his wikipedia page gets you started and then you can find lots more stuff online after that.

  3. Dude, I just had a blast watching all of these. Great compilation. The first person perspectives of the Norris fight are great, and I agree that the Guard fight is his best.

    1. Thanks, man! Yes, those first person shots in the Norris fight are awesome. Sometimes, I'll just randomly watch the guard fight by itself, I love is so much.

  4. I enjoyed the stuff, thanks for posting such interesting stories...

  5. I cant remember how many.times i have seen this film. Its like a good marriage. It gets better and better.