Bruce Lee takes the reins for his third martial arts action film, known for his climactic fight against another martial arts legend, Chuck Norris.
Tang Lung is a country bumpkin who has arrived in Rome on behalf of his uncle. He meets the very arrogant Cheng Ching-Hua, whose uncle Wang is the owner of a local restaurant that is under constant harassment by local thugs. Cheng is not convinced that Tang Lung can help in any way. In addition, Tang feels like a major fish out of water as he is worried about money will be handled. Even worse, when he arrives at the restaurant, he is confronted when one of the workers, Jimmy, tells Tang Lung that karate is better than Chinese kung fu.
When one day, the thugs arrive at the restaurant, Jimmy attempts to use his karate skills but is knocked out. Tang Lung proves himself by taking on the goons with his kung fu skills. He impresses the workers and even Cheng finally sees something in Tang Lung. As the thugs constantly arrive, Tang Lung manages to stand against those who harass him and his friends, even going as far as confronting the big boss of the organization. The boss’ man, Ho, convinces the boss to send fly in three fighters to take care of Tang Lung. They are Robert, a European boxer; a Japanese fighter, and an American fighter named Colt.
After working with filmmaker Lo Wei on The Big Boss and Fist of Fury, it was clear that it was time for Lee to take the reins of his own film. For this film, Lee brought both some international flavor and even added a touch of comic relief with this film. Perhaps, this film could be said to be an influential film with these two touches to the genre. With Rome as the setting for the film, Lee makes good use of the location’s exteriors. As for the comic relief, this comes in particular with one thug who acts like a big shot then is constantly beaten by Lee. Even an attempt to use nunchakus fails for this particular goon.
Interestingly enough, Lee has written the script to show that Tang, despite his likable manner, starts having retractors. Nora Miao plays Ms. Cheng as someone who is not convinced that Tang Lung can help out with the situation at hand. She even acts as a boss and confronts him about meeting foreigners, which ends up with Lee in an accidental “compromising situation”, another sign of comic relief in the film. Lee’s real life friend, Unicorn Chan, plays another retractor, Jimmy, who believes Japanese karate is better than Chinese kung fu. However, once he sees Tang Lung in action, he shows respect for him. Interestingly enough, Lee had a respect for all forms for martial arts.
However, the film will be forever known for one thing. The film will be perhaps known for the climactic fight pitting Bruce Lee against Chuck Norris, at the time one of the top competitors in martial arts. After karate champion Joe Lewis declined the role, Norris arrived and gets in a brief fight against Hwang In-Shik, as a Japanese fighter, then his fight against Lee. This is perhaps a grand fight that pits Lee’s skills against the Tang Soo Do style of Norris. There is only one brief of comic relief with a grab of chest hair from Lee in one scene. However, this is a well-choreographed fight that really brings out the skills from both fighters.
Way of the Dragon, released originally in the U.S. as Return of the Dragon, is a great film in which Bruce Lee made good use of international locations, a bit of comic relief, and one of the best one-on-one fights on screen during this era.
WFG RATING: A
A Golden Harvest production in association with Concord Productions Ltd. Director: Bruce Lee. Producer: Raymond Chow. Writer: Bruce Lee. Cinematography: Tadashi Nishimoto. Editing: Peter Cheung
Cast: Bruce Lee, Nora Miao, Wei Ping-Ao, Huang Chung-Hsin, Tony Liu, Unicorn Chan, Chuck Norris, Robert Wall, Hwang In-Shik, John Benn, Malisa Longo.