The Way of the Dragon. 1972. Hong Kong. Directed by Bruce Lee. With Lee, Huang Chung-hsin, Nora Miao, Chuck Norris, Robert Wall. In Cantonese and English; English subtitles. 99 min.
In his debut as writer and director, Bruce Lee took full artistic control on both sides of the camera. Focusing on character and plot development, Lee flexes his creative muscles, holding off the fights for a good half hour and highlighting his goofy, comedic edge as a country bumpkin from rural Hong Kong summoned to Rome to help a Chinese restaurant owner harassed by a local gang. When the fists finally fly, Lee’s dizzying maneuvering of a pair of nunchakus makes the toughest thugs scream for mama. The real meat is the final showdown with an American karate champion, played by Chuck Norris in his most memorable screen appearance. Facing a stocky opponent possibly twice his size, Lee uses his featherweight to great advantage, dancing and bouncing ceaselessly like a boxer with ballerina legs. With the majestic ancient Colosseum as its backdrop, this fight enters history as one of the most “monumental.” Digital.