Set against the backdrop of 1960s San Francisco, BIRTH OF THE DRAGON is a modern take on the classic movies that Bruce Lee was known for. It takes its inspiration from the epic and still controversial showdown between an up-and-coming Bruce Lee and kung fu master Wong Jack Man - a battle that gave birth to a legend.
In 1964, a young Bruce Lee owns and operates a San Francisco Kung Fu Academy, specializing in the Chinese martial art Wing Chun. Lee cares for his students, providing advice, roles as extras in his upcoming projects, and defending them from the gangs of Chinatown. One of Lee's students, Steve McKee, spars with Lee while fighting in anger, causing Lee to counter and embarrass him. McKee and Vinnie Wei work for the latter's mother's laundry business, where they find out that master Wong Jack Man is on a pilgrimage from China to observe the Kung Fu scene in the United States. While carrying out a delivery to the China Gate restaurant, McKee falls for an employee, Xiulan, who is forbidden to communicate with anyone on the outside. One night, McKee sneaks over to the restaurant to give her a grammar book, teaching her fellow roommates basic English..
Martial artist, actor, and stuntman Mike Moh campaigned for the role of Bruce Lee in the film. See more »
The film's portrayal of Wong Jack Man contains numerous factual errors. The biggest being that he was not a Shaolin monk nor did he come to San Francisco as penance for nearly killing a man in a duel. Nor did he return to China afterwards since he continued to teach martial arts in the Fort Mason Center of San Francisco until he retired in 2005. See more »
You're a great advertisement for our training.
[telling a former student he sees badly beaten in an alley way]
[he says weakly]
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A few of the job titles in the scrolling credits such as "stunt coordinator" and "set designer" change back and forth from English to Chinese. See more »
It's been 23 years since the last major Hollywood biopic on Bruce Lee. While we're a full generation forward, the 20-odd year interval wasn't sufficient to outlast the durable media biases that afflict how minorities, in this case, Asian-Americans, are depicted.
Birth of the Dragon will pull in fans off the street by claiming to tell the story of Bruce Lee, an iconic figure in American history. However, they may be surprised to find that the movie actually has very little to say about Lee. About his love life. About who he is as a human being. In fact, he is dealt with in such a stylized, mysterious manner -- and not as a full human being -- it's unclear the movie gives the viewer anything more than he already knew. Instead, Lee's primary purpose is to serve the white protagonist Steve McKnee in various ways.
First, the film gives short shrift to the actual epic fight between Lee and his rival. We do not even know how that fight impacted Lee's life afterwards, what he learned from it, or how it changed his fighting style. But we do know Lee went through all that trouble, and the animating force behind it was that Lee's rival was against Caucasians like McKnee being trained to fight. What's happening here is that - this really isn't about Lee. It's more about some character we've never heard of but somehow has the country's greatest martial arts fighter fighting on his behalf.
It doesn't end there. Lee, a role model for Americans, including Asian-Americans, is seen as flat. He is shown as without a romantic interest. In contrast, McKnee has an Asian Girlfriend...and lo and behold he needs Lee to fight for him again to get the girlfriend back after she's abducted by "bad Asians". And Lee does.
I think we came to watch Bruce Lee. Not Bruce Lee aid some random fictional nobody on his mission to belong, and then his mission to get back said nobody's girlfriend.
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