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First-Time Reactions to ENTER THE DRAGON

Originally published on July 26, 2018

On July 26, 1973, not even a full week following the unexpected passing of actor/martial artist Bruce Lee, ENTER THE DRAGON was released in theaters in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong-American film, directed by Robert Clouse, follows Lee as he enters a kung fu competition, in order to crack the headquarters of a manipulative narcotics dealer. Other than Lee, the film also stars John Saxon and the late Jim Kelly.

It’s been 45 years, and while I’ve seen several of Lee’s other films, this was one that had yet to be viewed. That is why I took it upon myself to use this anniversary as an excuse to watch it for the first time. In chronological order, I present my reactions to various moments from ENTER THE DRAGON:

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  • During Lee’s match at the beginning of the film: They’re still doing those super close-ups and we’re not even two minutes in.
  • When Lee does those back flip hand springs: I didn’t know Bruce also trained in gymnastics.
  • When mentoring a pupil: “Don’t think! Feel!” <– Classic Bruce Lee line!
  • In conversation with the British intelligence agent: “Nothing unusual about a body floating in a harbor.” <– What?!
  • When Lee asks why Han can’t just be shot to death, and the British intelligence agent says: “Any bloody fool can pull a trigger.” <– Word! (Did you catch that, NRA?)
  • When Lee’s sister stabs herself after finding herself surrounded: Why did she stab herself?! She could have taken them! She was taking them on for the past several minutes!
  • During Roper’s flashback: Oh snap! He’s fighting the referee from THE KARATE KID!
  • When Williams fights off the cops and stole their car: Badass! Not to mention an incredible change of pace when a Black man is faced with White cops, especially when watching this during the Black Lives Matter movement.
  • When Williams says: “Ghettos are the same all over the world. They stink.” <– Word!
  • When Lee tricks a guy into getting into a row boat: He totally just trolled that guy big time!
  • When Mei Ling tells Lee about the disappearances of the women on the island: This is really sickening! It’s not just about drugs anymore.
  • When Lee doesn’t wear the required uniform: Why was he so resistant to doing so?
  • This line: “Boards don’t hit back.” <– Yes! One more time for the board-breaking enthusiasts in the back!
  • When Han confronts Williams, and he responds with: “You come right out of a comic book.” <– I love this line from him.
  • When Williams is killed: I can’t be the only one disturbed by the fact that the only lead Black character in the film is killed.
  • Lee fighting with escrima sticks: Automatic win!
  • An observation: I find it an amusing creative choice that with these fight scenes going on at this point in the film, the super close-ups are occurring once more.
  • When Han goes for his clawed hand: Oh… I think I know how Lee gets those cuts all over his body.
  • Lee’s confrontation with Han: “You have offended my family…” <– Oh look! There’s half of the name of this here blog!
  • The mirror scene: This was a super crazy scene to watch. I can see now why it’s so iconic.
  • Han’s death by spear <– MORBID!

Now that I have watched it all the way through, I can now see why ENTER THE DRAGON is not only an iconic film in Lee’s filmography, but also in general. The story keeps you on edge, the fight scenes are epic, and it shows Lee at his very best. While I can never imagine what it must have been like to have seen the film so soon after his death, I can see how this film is the ultimate homage to the incredible man that he was.

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