Danny Chan (Bruce Lee)
Michelle Lang (Linda Emory Lee)
Ted E. Duran (Blair)
Yu Chenghui (Master Ye)
Wang Luoyong (Uncle Shao Ruhai)
Zhou Zhou (Lee Hoi-Chuen)
Gai Ke (Grace Lee)
Natalia Dzyublo (Jones)
The first ten episodes of the 2008 loosely based biographical series starring Danny Chan as the martial arts legend arrive on DVD.
As a high school student in an almost all-British school in Hong Kong, Bruce Lee wins the local Cha Cha championship, causing ire with Blair. Feeling racism within the school, Bruce always finds himself getting into fights and getting berated by his father after the fact. When Bruce decides to join the school boxing team, Blair, the team’s top champion, is not happy. However, when he discovers that Bruce does have what it takes after defeating him, Blair apologizes and decides to help Bruce hone his boxing skills.
When Bruce’s earlier incidents inspire him to study martial arts, his father forbids it. However, family friend Uncle Shao offers to teach Bruce small techniques and eventually convinces Bruce’s parents to have him train with Wing Chun master Ye. When Bruce masters the art, he uses his skills to help protect the neighborhood from a gang, who retaliates and puts Bruce into a coma. This gives the Lee family the decision to send Bruce to America, where he will goes to the University of Washington to study philosophy, take on a Karate master named Kimura, and meet the love of his life, Linda Emory.
Many felt this 2008 series, executive produced by Bruce Lee’s daughter Shannon, is not exactly great with its many depictions and name changes for certain characters. After Lionsgate released a three-hour condensed version of the 50-episode series, Well Go USA has gotten the rights to the series and decided to unleash the series in a five volume set to be released sporadically. This first volume highlights Bruce’s humble beginnings as a high school student who fights racism yet deals with his family’s anger when he unwittingly gets into the altercations.
The star of the film is Danny Chan, an actor and dance choreographer who gained a following when Hong Kong’s comedy king Stephen Chow cast him as the goalie “Empty Hands” in Shaolin Soccer in 2001. Chan’s resemblance of Bruce Lee is without a doubt uncanny and while over the years, there have been many Bruce-alikes, Chan is by far the one with the most resemblance to the Dragon himself. As a matter of fact, Chan would once again play Lee not only in this series, but would play the role again in 2015’s Ip Man 3, in an extended cameo.
Of course, many who are martial arts historians and enthusiasts will not like Yu Chenghui’s look in the role of Master Ye, based on the legendary Yip Man, who was Lee’s real-life Wing Chun teacher, immortalized by Donnie Yen in the Ip Man trilogy (a trademark with the name forced producers to rename the character from Yip to Ip). Yu, the co-star of Jet Li’s original Shaolin Temple films, sports an elderly master look with an elongated beard where photos of the real Yip Man have seen him with no facial hair. There are other inaccuracies that will make the purists not want to see this, but there is such a curiosity factor and Chan truly makes the most of what he has to work with.
The Legend of Bruce Lee: Volume One is a start to a series that perhaps brings more of a curiosity factor rather than a pure look at the life of Bruce Lee. However, Danny Chan does make the most of his role as the martial arts legend and from a TV viewpoint, it’s worth taking a look at, even if it is once.
WFG RATING: B (solely for curiosity purposes)