For all those hyper-Bruce Lee fans who have panned this movie, I have just one thing to tell you - watch the DVD version with the Director's Commentary turned on. You might learn a thing or two about the real Bruce Lee story. Yes, Rob Cohen's commentary track is worth it all by itself to get this DVD, because he discusses many of the changes made in the movie from the real story, and explains why he made the changes. He doesn't have time to explain everything, but he covers a lot (e.g., the deletion of Seattle from the storyline came about because the Univ. of Washington pissed him off with their refusal to allow him to film on campus, so he just scratched out the entire city and changed it to San Francisco). Along the way, he throws in a number of little historical gems, pointing out things in the movie that might have been put in for dramatic effect but in fact really did happen (e.g., Linda's mother making the comment to her about "having yellow babies" - Linda's mother, who was still alive, actually signed a release to allow herself to be portrayed this way).
Anyway, here's why this movie is great:
1. It is one of the first of the few major Hollywood movies ever made that depict an interracial love story of a Chinese/Caucasian couple where the Chinese person in the story is a MAN. Even today, Hollywood still seems to be much more comfortable with putting cute Chinese women matched with Caucasian leading men onto the big screen.
2. The movie really emphasizes the racial discrimination aspect of the Bruce Lee story, for example, bringing out to the general public the real story behind how David Carradine got the TV show "Kung Fu" (Carradine became very defensive about this part of his acting resume after this movie came out). Cohen dwells on this racism aspect more so than either Linda or Bruce Lee ever did in real life. Most likely, they preferred to ignore the racism and rise above it rather than draw attention to it. It's great that themes like this finally get explored in movies.
3. Jason Scott Lee is terrific. He's bigger and buffer than the real Bruce Lee (who at 5' 7" was shorter than my teenage daughter) And he's a better actor. And no, he's not as quick as the real Bruce Lee, but few people ever were, and for somebody not trained in the martial arts, he sure did a great job of faking it. Unfortunately, since this movie, Jason seems to have undergone a Bruce Lee experience of his own - after making a few more major movies, his career has started to fade from the big screen as more "authentic" and bankable (in the Asian market anyway) Chinese actors such as Jet Li, Jackie Chan and Chow Yun Fat take over Hollywood's slot for Asian leading men.
4. The soundtrack by Randy Edelman is terrific (if somewhat repetitious). One of the most beautiful parts of the movie was the scene where Jason Scott Lee and Lauren Holly go through their balletic kung-fu excercises in perfect unison to Edelman's stirring score.
5. Lauren Holly is terrific. She too is a Hollywood improvement on the original. For one thing, in the movie, although she cuts her hair short after marriage, just like the real Linda Lee, her hair never takes on the 60's - era puffed bun look of the original Linda Lee (geez, was there ever a more horrible hairstyle than the puffed bun). For another, her role is much more aggressive and pro-active, more of a proto-feminist from the 90's. The ending of this movie makes it seem as if she was close to leaving Bruce Lee to return to the U.S., whereas the real truth was that Bruce Lee at the time was already traveling back and forth to the U.S. as well as all over the world, and it would have been far more likely that he would have been the one to spin out of her orbit as he scaled the heights of international superstardom.
This is not just a movie about Bruce Lee, it is a great and moving love story. Listen to Director Rob Cohen again as he talks about the final scene in this movie, when Jason Scott Lee gives a good-bye kiss to Lauren Holly and then climbs up the stairs to the Han Island movie set:
"When I look at this scene, no matter how many times, I still get choked up.... Part of it is that how much these people loved each other. Part of it was how beautiful they were together, and what a stand they made for their time. Part of it is that, as he's finishing this film, he's finishing his life, and we know it and he doesn't.....I wanted to give the homage of his fellow martial artists to the great image, the great work, the great place in history of Bruce Lee....to see him again, mythically, legendarily, above and eternal, in motion, never stopping, always kinetic, and always with us."