Inspired by a legendary fight

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By 2017-10-08

By Nirupa Mohan
Ceylon Today Features

The action film Birth of the Dragon focuses on a fight between Bruce Lee and Wong Jack Man that took place in 1964 in San Francisco, at a time when Bruce Lee was a martial arts instructor.

The film features Hong Kong born American actor Philip Ng Wan-lung in the lead role as Bruce Lee, while Xia Yu stars as a Shaolin monk, Wong Jack Man, who is a Kung Fu and Tai Chi master. Philip Ng's background in choreography and martial arts gives the film a more balanced feel with precision and attention to detail every step of the way.
The 89 minute film by director George Nolfi together with producers Stephen J. Rivele, Christopher Wilkinson, Janice Williams, Pang Hong, Leo Shi Young and Michael London, received ratings of 21% on Rotten Tomatoes and just 4.5/10 on IMDb. The film raked in seven million dollars at the worldwide box office.

Based on the trailer, it feels like it's about Kung Fu as Bruce Lee, a man who wants to climb the ladder teaches in America with his own techniques, and is about to be challenged by someone who has a more traditional outlook. But what the movie's plot really is focused on is one of Lee's students. Steve McKeen, played by Billy Magnussen, is in love with a girl who is held by the Chinatown crime family. In order to get her freedom, he needs the two to challenge each other in a fight that will give the crime family something to cash in on from bets, and in exchange set her free. The plot is not properly centred, and at times the story keeps vitiating with other students and random fights, that divert attention from the main story. Steve as a character with a love interest, lacks depth and dialogue but is randomly placed throughout the movie. Regardless, the title character and the main fight make the film one that's worth watching, keeping in mind that it's what the movie's selling point is.

The film focuses on a time before Bruce Lee became popular has impressive technique in featuring the key fight that has no rules and no limits and is held as a secret fight. Xia Yu as Wong Jack Man, delivers exceptional character performance and manages to portray a sense of perfection in his role every step of the way.

It feels like it's about sincere good moments while also focusing on the old ways and forms of martial arts but also tends to be about newer ways and the two perceptions but manage to deliver fluid movement, featuring individual ability, aptitude and expertise that test their skilfulness, proficiency and talent.

This is a film that takes the audience to a time that features the early days and life of Bruce Lee, in a time that altered the way he teaches and practices martial arts, while also putting aside personal competition for the sake of saving someone who matters.

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