QED International and Groundswell Productions have joined forces for Birth of the Dragon, which will focus on Bruce Lee’s career-defining 1965 no-holds–barred TKO battle with kung fu master Wong Jack Man.
According to Linda Lee Cadwell, Bruce Lee’s wife, Lee’s teaching of Chinese martial arts to Caucasians made him unpopular with Chinese martial artists in San Francisco. Wong contested the notion that Lee was fighting for the right to teach Caucasians as not all of his students were Chinese. Wong stated that he requested a public fight with Lee after Lee had issued an open challenge during a demonstration at a Chinatown theater in which he claimed to be able to defeat any martial artist in San Francisco. Wong stated it was after a mutual acquaintance delivered a note from Lee inviting him to fight that he showed up at Lee’s school to challenge him. Martial artist David Chin reportedly wrote the original challenge, while Wong asked Chin to let him sign it.
According to author Norman Borine, Wong tried to delay the match and asked for restrictions on techniques such as hitting the face, kicking the groin, and eye jabs, and that the two fought no holds barred after Lee turned down the request.
The details of the fight vary depending on the account. Individuals known to have witnessed the match included Cadwell, James Lee (an associate of Bruce Lee, no relation) and William Chen, a teacher of T’ai chi ch’uan. According to Bruce, Linda, and James Lee, the fight lasted 3 minutes with a decisive victory for Bruce.
Lee gave a description, without naming Wong explicitly, in an interview with Black Belt:
- “I’d gotten into a fight in San Francisco with a Kung-Fu cat, and after a brief encounter the son-of-a-bitch started to run. I chased him and, like a fool, kept punching him behind his head and back. Soon my fists began to swell from hitting his hard head. Right then I realized Wing Chun was not too practical and began to alter my way of fighting.”
Cadwell recounted the scene in her book Bruce Lee: The Man Only I Knew:
- “The two came out, bowed formally and then began to fight. Wong adopted a classic stance whereas Bruce, who at the time was still using his Wing Chun style, produced a series of straight punches. “Within a minute, Wong’s men were trying to stop the fight as Bruce began to warm to his task. James Lee warned them to let the fight continue. A minute later, with Bruce continuing the attack in earnest, Wong began to back pedal as fast as he could. For an instant, indeed, the scrap threatened to degenerate into a farce as Wong actually turned and ran. But Bruce pounced on him like a springing leopard and brought him to the floor where he began pounding him into a state of demoralization. “Is that enough?” shouted Bruce, “That’s enough!” pleaded his adversary. Bruce demanded a second reply to his question to make sure that he understood this was the end of the fight.”
This is in contrast to Wong and William Chen’s account of the fight as they state the fight lasted an unusually long 20–25 minutes. Allegedly, Wong was unsatisfied with Lee’s account of the match and published his own version in the Chinese Pacific Weekly, a Chinese language newspaper in San Francisco. The article, which was featured on the front page, included a detailed description of the fight from Wong’s perspective and concluded with an invitation to Bruce Lee for a public match if Lee found his version to be unacceptable. Lee never made a public response to the article. Wong later expressed regret over fighting Lee, attributing it to arrogance, both on the part of Lee and himself.
Written by Oscar nominees Christopher Wilkinson and Stephen Rivele, who worked on Oliver Stone’s Nixon and Michael Mann’s Ali, the film focuses on the aforementioned Oakland fight that launched Lee to martial arts stardom, which happened against the backdrop of the Hong Kong Triads’ criminal control of San Francisco’s Chinatown. The film will also detail a team-up between the two legends to take on the Triads. The fight with Jack Man was the last official one of Lee’s career before he headed into acting, competition and building his martial arts philosophy. “We’re excited to retell the fantastic origin story of the world’s most famous martial arts icon, which in the hands of Christopher and Stephen, lends itself to an action thriller we’re sure will enthrall movie fans around the world,” QED’s Bill Block said in a statement. The film will be produced by Block, Groundswell Productions CEO Michael London, Wilkinson and Rivele, and executive produced by Groundswell’s Kelly Mullen.
John Saxon (born August 5, 1936) has worked on over 200 projects during the span of sixty years. Saxon is most known for his work in horror films such as ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ and ‘Black Christmas’, both of which feature Saxon as a policeman in search of the killer. He is also more famously known for his role as Roper in the 1973 film ‘Enter the Dragon’, in which he starred with Bruce Lee and Jim Kelly. If you look further, you’ll find he’s made some incredibly good/bad B-movies.
In 1844 Japan, a sadistic young Shogun, Lord Naritsugu Matsudaira is in line to ascend to the Shogunate where he will become second in command. The swearing in ceremony is scheduled to take place at the Akashi domain. Determined to stop him before he arrives at his destination is master Shogun Samurai Shinzaemon Shimada. He enlists the help of 11 Samurai and they head to the town of Ochlai where they plan to ambush Naritsugu and his army of 70 men. On their journey they get lost in the jungle and enlist the help of a local hunter as their guide and the 13th Assassin of the title.
As they prepare the small town of Ochlai for the ambush, they learn that although Naritsugu has delayed his journey, his arrival is imminent, and he now is now travelling with a 200 strong army. Massively outnumbered, the 13 would be assassins must battle against the odds to complete their suicide mission…
Takashi Miike, the controversial cult director behind ‘Audition’ and ‘Ichi the Killer’ has made one of his more accessible movies. That’s not to say that 13 Assassins doesn’t have some disturbing scenes and a lot of violence, it has those in abundance, however it is also a very traditional story about loyalty and honour. These principles are displayed by the contrasting beliefs of the two high ranked Samurai in the film. Our hero, Shinzaemon favours the belief that the Samurai are protectors of justice for the people of Japan, and his direct opponent and rival Hanbei, Lord Naritsugu’s number one, believes that a Samurai’s duty lies in complete and total servitude to their master.
Having said that, the main reason most will watch this film is for the action, and it delivers, the final battle sequence alone runs for almost 50 non-stop minutes! It is incredibly well choreographed and beautifully shot.
There are a few disturbing moments, this is a Takashi Miike film after all. They involve the cruelty of Naritsugu and are perhaps a little too extreme for this type of film; the first involves him shooting an entire family at close range with arrows and most disturbingly, we see the results of a girl he tortured by chopping off her arms, legs and cutting out her tongue. Miike makes Naritsugu so despicable that he’s almost a caricature of a bad guy.
Quality: 4 out of 5 stars
Any good: 4 out of 5 stars
I was given this DVD by a friend at work, his description of it made it sound like fun… Zin (Ammara Siripong), the former girlfriend of a Thai mob boss falls for Mashashi (Hiroshi Abe), a rival Japanese gangster. After much bloodshed her boss banishes them both, Musashi to Japan and Zin with her young autistic daughter Zen to an apartment in a poorer part of the city. Blessed with incredible reflexes Zen spends her days watching and absorbing the students at the martial arts school next door. Zin adopts a young boy Moom after seeing him bullied in the streets, he and Zen (JeeJa Yanin) develop a close bond as he looks after her and helps to ‘train’ her reflexes. When Zin is taken to hospital and needs chemotherapy Moom looking for money to pay the bills discovers a ledger listing business men who still owe Zin money from her former life. He goes to get the money and takes Zen with him… as each business man refuses to pay Zen has to use her skills to fight more and more foes. A showdown with Zins former boss is inevitable…
You get what you’d expect from Prachya Pinkaew, the director of Thailand’s biggest ever box-office hit, Ong-Bak. Chocolate features similarly exciting action set-pieces with the added twist that this time it is an autistic teenage girl doing the ass-kicking. Star Yanin is a decent actress, great fighter and good looking; she’s obviously a real star in the making. The best thing about the action is, like Ong-Bak before it, there is no wire work, what you see is real even if some of it is slightly sped up for effect.
As a movie it’s well made for the martial arts genre, although as is usual with this type of fare the first third of the movie, the story set-up and character development feels rushed. Of course it is, the whole point here is to get to the scenes with Yanin kicking the shit out of the bad guys and she does so for two thirds of the movie. Prachya could learn to use another transition other than fade to black to end each and every one of the opening scenes but that is a small complaint.
It’s an interesting angle for a martial arts action movie to take and I’m no expert on autism, Rainman being the extent of my limited knowledge, but for a movie making such a big deal about its action realism, maybe a slightly different approach to the ‘realism’ of the script would help lift the movie out of limited action-fan-only territory.
Quality: 3 out of 5 stars
Any good: 4 out of 5 stars (great fun if you like this sort of thing)