In the years since his bizarre and tragic death, martial arts legend and master Bruce Lee has become a sort of icon within the Kung-fu movie circuit.
The last film that he completed before his death, 1973's "Enter the Dragon," has become not only a masterful showcase for Lee's talents (both fighting and acting), but in the 31 years since its release has become perhaps the definitive martial arts movie of all time.
Lee, in his first and last English-speaking performance, stars as a martial arts expert who is recruited by the British government to infiltrate an island fortress, under the cover of being invited to a martial arts tournament, to investigate a possible slavery/drug ring led by a former nemesis of his.
Indeed something is amiss at this isolated island fortress, as he discovers that his nemesis Han (Shih Kien) is the host of the tournament and is also the leader of the same gang that murdered his sister. Soon enough, Lee, together with two other martial artists, Roper (John Saxon) and Williams (Jim Kelly), go to work kicking a** everywhere until the final showdown with the murderous, one-handed villain Han in the classic "Hall of Mirrors" fight sequence.
"Enter the Dragon," a joint American-Chinese production, was intended to be Bruce Lee's introduction to Western audiences, but due to his tragic death just weeks before the film's American release, we will never know what he would have been capable of here in the states. Even more tragically, his son Brandon Lee would experience a similar fate just like his father only 20 years later with "The Crow."
There are so many classic fight scenes, which I can watch over and over without them ever becoming boring. Many of them still hold up very well, especially by 2004's standards, where fight scenes are mostly digitally enhanced or involve "wire" or "Matrix-fu" to make up for lack of actual stunt work; plus one has to remember that this film was made in 1973, in the days before wirework would become dominant in today's martial arts cinema. The "Cavern Fight" is probably my favorite fight sequence of all time, in any martial arts movie.
Many of the fights in this movie, more specially the ones where Lee is involved, have a surreal feeling to them. He brings a kind of grace to his action scenes that have yet to be topped by any actor alive today. Lee even brings many of his own personal philosophies to this film, which makes much sense and perhaps help to understand some of the more philosophical elements to the story. But more than anything, this was Bruce Lee's entrée to Americans; many people, including myself, were introduced to martial arts cinema through "Enter the Dragon."
There are also several cameos made by future martial arts stars that would eventually reach stardom, most notably Jackie Chan (as a henchman during the "Cavern Fight" sequence who has his neck broken by Lee) and Sammo Hung (as Lee's sparring partner in the opening fight sequence).
I could go on and on about what makes this movie immortal, but I feel I should let you see what makes it great. Bruce Lee was forever immortalized with this film and it will be cherished and praised forever.