Bruce Lee is a legend beyond the mere definition of legend, and likely his most accessible and easily found film is “Enter the Dragon.” That’s pretty much because Lee stars in a film that garners the most mainstream premise along with some truly iconic imagery that’s never been matched. Even in spite of battling Chuck Norris in one of his films. “Enter the Dragon” is an easily found film that’s on constant rotation in American television mainly because it’s a truly entertaining film that can appeal to almost anyone. It’s a crime thriller, a martial arts film, a romance picture, and a revenge film all tied in to one.
It also sports one of the few times Bruce Lee is able to mutter his own dialogue without the function of dubbing. Bruce Lee plays Lee, a Shaolin student who is invited by Mr. Han, the owner a private island, to compete in a massive martial arts competition. Before considering entering, Lee is confronted by Federal Agents and asked to infiltrate the island to investigate Han, who is accused of drug trafficking and prostitution. What’s worse is that Han is an ex-Shaolin student who has disgraced the school Lee holds so dear. So begins “Enter The Dragon,” a pretty excellent action film that gives Lee the chance to play the dashing hero, while two noted American actors play supporting roles.
John Saxon and Jim Kelly play fellow competitors whom are welcomed to the island to compete and are greeted with luxurious rooms and gorgeous women. Upon investigating, Lee learns that there’s much more to the island that Han admits to, and a war ensues. Lee’s actions also have consequences, which is a rarity with action films, as Saxon and Kelly’s characters feel the brunt of the punishment for his stealth investigations, as Han begins pitting fighters against one another. Thanks to director Robert Clouse, Lee is able to flex his charm and charisma with the role of Lee, stalking the grounds of Han’s islands, outwitting guards, and battling on duty security single handedly.
There are also some brilliantly crafted tournament scenes that not only depict the severity of Han’s competition, but how deadly the stakes tend to be. Kelly and Saxon give very good performances working well off of Lee, while also embroiled in their own unique sub-plots that are harrowing and deadly. While Lee’s other films are arguably superior and much more in tune to what Bruce Lee envisioned for action cinema, “Enter the Dragon” stands out as a brilliant piece of martial arts cinema. The final scene where Lee battles Han in his mirror labyrinth is still incredible, and Lee is at his best as a hero fighting for the innocent as well as the honor of the Shaolin temple.