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  Young Bruce Lee How It All Began
Year: 2010
Director: Manfred Wong, Wai Man Yip
Stars: Aarif Rahman, Tony Leung Ka Fai, Christy Chung, Jin Auyeung, Michelle Ye, Kristy Yang, Chin Kar Lok, Jennifer Tse, Alex Man, Cheung Siu-Fai, Cheung Tat-Min, Alex Yen, Jia Song, Lawrence Cheng, Wilfred Lau, Kam Lee Heung, Johnson Yuen, Hanjin Tan, Gong Mi
Genre: BiopicBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: In 1940, Chinese actor Hoi-Chuen Lee (Tony Leung Ka Fai) was performing onstage in San Francisco, his pregnant wife Grace (Christy Chung) staying back at their rooms - or she was until she went into labour. Lee received word the minute the performance ended, and rushed over to be at his wife's side to hear the nurse at the hospital encouraging her to "Push... push". The baby was born and when he was asked what his name would be, he repeated his wife's delirious moans of "Push... push", with the result the nurse recorded the infant's name as Bruce.

That's right, we have just witnessed the birth of one of the most famous movie stars of all time, Bruce Lee. But this movie, sanctioned by his brother Robert who appears at the beginning to give the project his blessing, might not be what you would expect from a movie about the superstar. Let's see, what was Bruce most celebrated for? His father's opium habit? Not being able to ride a bicycle? Winning a ballroom dancing competition with a small boy? Probably not would be the answer to all that, but nevertheless that was what you were treated to here in lieu of any actual scenes of martial arts action.

The intent was evidently to delve into the emotions of Bruce as he grew up and found his place in the world, so not going the obvious route was not a bad idea. Unfortunately, however sincere, it wasn't a particularly interesting route either, and too often the facts of his life were presented in a style resembling a soap opera, with lost loves and family troubles. Bruce's talents did not emerge fully formed, and he did his share of training and fighting in his teenage years to the extent that he was quite keen to show off his combat prowess even to those who were reluctant to fight him, yet you would find little of that here.

At least star Aarif Rahman looked more like his role than Jason Scott Lee did in Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, but where that was a highly fictionalised version of his life it did at least provide what audience would have expected from a film with that subject, lots of action. Here there was proof that the feeling many get when reading or watching biographies might well have been a valid one, commonly known as what Frank Skinner termed "Hurry up and get famous". You know, those scenes you get, and they're here too, where the protagonist muddles through their early existence and the kind of clich├ęs you know all too well were offered up as drama.

However, with Bruce Lee he was actually famous in Hong Kong as a child, thanks to him appearing in movies there, which might have opened up a few more opportunities for excitement as we saw the filmmaking process and how he adapted to it. There are bits like that, but mainly of Bruce watching from the sidelines, so alternatively you might have thought the scriptwriters might have gone for the kind of activity delineated in many a martial arts movie, the training sequences. They didn't do that either, and there were actually only two fights in the whole movie, one a boxing match and the other a Way of the Dragon homage complete with cat spectator; even then you had to wait for the last quarter of the two hour running time for these to occur, and in no way were they as exciting as anything in the Bruce Lee canon. With a whiff of jingoism and a strong anti-drugs message, this could interest the fans, but it wasn't half worthy. Music by Kwong Wing Chan.

[The CineAsia double disc DVD has featurettes, interviews and a Bey Logan commentary, the latter which may be the decider on whether you get this.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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