Every Bruce Lee film seems to be surrounded by controversy and The Big Boss was no different. Filmed in Thailand, it wasn’t the most pleasant of places, and the cast and crew survived on terrible meals and poor accomodation. It visually takes a toll on the actors in this film and certainly has it’s shortcomings, however in 1971 it was the springboard that really launched the legend of Bruce Lee, and it remains forever a key film in the evolution of the martial arts genre. The production value is almost laughable, and the English dubbing is abysmal, but no matter how amateur the films’ plot is, it doesn’t take away from Bruce Lee’s lightning-fast talent.
The film opens with Bruce Lee arriving to live and work alongside some of his cousins. It’s pretty hard not to fight in this environment. Before he even gets to his new home, he has to watch a gang of thugs intimidate a poor young lady and kick a little kid around. It is a basic story of surviving in harsh conditions. You won’t come away from this movie feeling happy or light of heart. The realism in the fight scenes even though they are violent because violence is an element in all chinese movies but here for the first time was a movie which featured real kicks and punches.
Bruce not only displays his martial arts skills, the finesse of his ossified physique, and his abilty to act, he even shows a few of his legendary punchlines, things like cracking his knuckles simply by making a Fist, or licking the blood off an open wound and screaming before retaliating. Unfortunately, everytime a punch or kick is throw in the movie, it somehow sounds like someone’s blowing with great force into a microphone. You will also notice from the attached youtube clip some things that could never happen in real life. Like the bad guy lightly tossing a birdcage up in the air and it hooking itself on to a tree branch. Then Bruce chucks a knife up and hits the cage, it falls and breaks and the birds escape. Ugh.
All in all, The Big Boss is a worthy memorial to the martial arts master, and is worth watching if you like either Bruce Lee or martial arts in general. In many ways The Big Boss may have been a last throw of the dice for Bruce Lee. But he overcame a lot of obstacles and it’s no doubt he is one ofthe best to have ever done it. Bruce Lee has an undeniable screen presence even when he is not fighting, and it builds up a ridiculous amount of tension for the film’s first half. But when he snaps, the action truly explodes.