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Young Bruce Lee (aka Bruce Lee, My Brother) (2010)
WARNING SPOILERS MAY APPEAR
Young Bruce Lee (or Bruce Lee, My Brother as it's called in other English country) is a biopic about the martial arts icon Bruce Lee covering the first 18 years from his birth in American till his return to his birth country. I loved Bruce Lee ever since I a kid, I can still remember watching a Bruce Lee documentary on VHS when I was seven, so when I heard that a Bruce Lee biopic was getting made in Hong Kong I was excited and it's finally on DVD in the UK thanks to Cine Asia. The movie is based on his siblings’ memories and his brother Robert Lee is one of producers and the narrator of the movie.
The movie is co-directed and written by Manfred Wong (The Storm Riders, Young and Dangerous series) and also directed by Raymond Yip (The Warlords). The relatively unknown Aarif Lee plays the teenage Bruce Lee and his parents are played by Tony Leung Ka Fai (Detective Dee, Bodyguards and Assassins) and Christy Chung (The Medallion). Other small roles are taken by some veteran TV and movie actors.
The movie opens up and a message about the movies comes basically saying that this is a dramatization and that the Bruce Lee Enterprise were not involved so basically his widow Linda and daughter Shannon have nothing to do with this film. Next is the starting credits, this is a great glimpse into the Lee family as it involves going around the set of their family home and includes original photos of the family but it does drag on a little. There is a begin speech by Robert and Sister Phoebe surprisingly Robert Lee is talking English for this part of the film.
When the film properly starts we see Tony Leung Ka Fai’s face covered in make-up playing Bruce Lee’s Dad, Lee Hoi-chuen, in the Chinese opera during a tour in San Francisco. When he’s backstage after the performance he is told his wife is in labour and heads to the hospital. Eventfully the child is born and when asked for the boy’s name to put on the registration they reply push because that what the kept hearing during the delivery but the nurse hears it threw their accents as Bruce. I have never heard of this story from any of the Bruce Lee books and documentaries I have watched if it is true it is a nice story but if it’s made up for the movie it just seems like a bad joke in what should be a serious moment and a mood setter for the rest of the film.
The next scene shows us the filming of Bruce Lee’s film debut when he was still a baby in the Hong Kong movie shot in San Francisco “Golden Gate Girl”. This is a cool scene it seemed to say that Bruce Lee was destined for acting even at such an early age. The next part of the film is when they return to their huge family in Hong Kong and get to see a lot of the traditions at that time. We skip head a bit to when Japan took over Hong Kong and Hoi-chuen is asked to act in Japanese propaganda but he doesn’t want any part of it of in this scene with are introduced to Ngai (Wilfred Lau) who seems to be an interrupter but this is never really explained and he seems added in so there is an antagonist all the way through the movie. While this sequence doesn’t do much plot wise it does give us a nice little glimpse of what was happening in Hong Kong at that time.
We then see more of the young Bruce’s family life and how he meets some of his friends that stay on during the movie. And because of some of the mischievous things he did as child he gets punished physically by his father along with his sibling who are getting hurt for covering up for him, I know this would have been a common practise in those days but it seem out of character for Hoi-chuen because he seems he has been soften to fit a more modern image of a father.
Hoi-chuen is than approached by one of his friends in the movie business to let Bruce act in one of his movies and after thinking and talking about it lets this happen. We seem a recreation of scene from this movie, The Kid (1950), it is really well done and the child actor playing Bruce does an amazing job emulating his characteristics.
It then goes to 1957 and this time when we see Bruce he’s doing what teenagers did in the 50s dance to some rock ‘n roll and try to pick-up some chicks but this leads him and his friends getting to some trouble and after an entertaining chase they get beaten up although we don’t get to see the fight only the aftermath on the gang of friends. After this we get a very similar scene to earlier in the movie but instead of the Japanese it’s the English with Ngai looking for opium in the Lees’ house because opium was a tradition for those who were in the Chinese opera and was believed to help your singing voice. After a bribe they leave pretending there was no evidence in the house. Like the earlier Japanese scene this is really only in the film to give some historical context.
Later Bruce Lee and co go to a film studio to see Wong Fei-hung vs. Shek Kin getting filmed. This is fun to watch if you are a Hong Kong movie buff but otherwise it doesn’t seem to have any reason to be in this movie it is just padding. Next up we see the Lee’s house full of activity as its new year, as someone outside of the culture this is interesting to see but it kind of feels out of place like the filming scene before. Bruce is then back at the studio watching more filming until he sees a girls he likes and then begins to stalk her, I mean follower her until she notices him and she know who he is. After this we get the Lee family writing out a card for Bruce’s Mother Grace and Bruce says that one day everyone in the world will want his autograph and then we get a tender scene between the two parents.
Bruce then has a bounding night out with one of his old friends Kong .In the morning Bruce gets in a scrap with a boxer called Charlie Owens, Bruce loses and Charlie tell him they will fight again when Bruce is ready. The Girl Bruce followed, Pearl, returns and it turns out she is the girlfriend of Kong. In preparation for the fight Bruce goes and joins Yip Man’s Wing Chun school, we never see Yip Man’s face in this scene it made me excited at first thinking that maybe Donnie Yen was doing a cameo as the character from the Ip man films but the reason was only to show a real life photo at the end with Bruce with Yip. I think the only reason they did this was because they couldn’t find an actor resembling Yip man.
We later find out that one of Bruce Lee’s female friends Margaret has a thing for him. Now he must decide between Pearl and Margaret to be his dance partner at the Cha-Cha contests. But Pearl decides to dance with Kong and instead of choosing Margaret, Bruce has his brother Robert be his dance partner. Bruce and Robert win the contest. Kong tells Bruce he know he has feelings for Pearl and he will get out of the picture. There is a little training montage and Bruce gets a date with Pearl but only because she wants him to help find Kong who has become a junkie and has been gone for 2 weeks.
Bruce and Charlie Owens then have their fight a boxing match that is very entertaining and is put together very well. After some failure of searching for Kong, Charlie rings Bruce and set up another fight this time a street fight. While this fight is very good and a great homage to Way of the Dragon it just seems thrown in their to waste some time and to please people who just want to see a no nonsense Kung Fu movie which this movie isn’t meant to be, the only thing this fight adds to the movie is Charlie telling Bruce the last know location of Kong.
I won’t tell you what happen next but it ends with Bruce Lee boarding a ship for America to the Way of the Dragon theme. While there were many good things about the film such as the acting and the way it was shoot there are a things that bring the movies down. The script seems very weak and trying to please all spectrum of people adding meaningless scenes in and not worrying about how the movie flows. The fact he fights Charlie Owens three times just makes it feel like they were adding a useless generic Martial Arts sub-plot to it to please a few movie goes expecting a movie is the style of Bruce Lee. The only characters that are fleshed out are Bruce himself and his parents, the other main cast just seem paper-thin and 2 dimensional, some of the characters just seemed pointless in this movie and weren’t very interesting.
Final thought, if you’re a die-hard Bruce Lee fan you will find something enjoyable in this movie but if you’re not avoid this rather mediocre film