| ||The Plot: After the original events of The Chinese Connection, Chen Zhen (Bruce Lee) our hero was killed by the Japanese occupying forces within Shanghai. This is where our film begins, with Zhen’s (misspelling, or possibly the wrong name, I am aware – I just know the same character was called that in Fist of Legend) brother coming into town to witness his brother’s grave and pay his respects. However, once in town he finds that this respect is not welcome – as the Japanese have shut the entire city down from grieving and will arrest anyone who visits his grave. Zhen’s brother Chen Shen (misspelling, once again, I am aware) is no pushover though and his thoughts on the issue? He came to drink beer and kick Japanese tail, and guess what? There’s no beer in Shanghai! HUZZAH!|
Brucesploitation! Oh the most glorious of subgenres! You’ve got everything you could need, some guy pretending to be Bruce Lee, good kung fu and occasionally a really weird film if you’re lucky! Chinese Connection II actually has a reputation for being one of the better Brucesploitation flicks out there and after watching I’m inclined to agree. First off for those of you unfamiliar with this territory (and you really shouldn’t be at this point!) Brucesploitation is a subgenre of Kung Fu that took place after the death of Bruce Lee in the early seventies and lasted until roughly the mid-eighties. Essentially, since it was so hard to find another superstar that could take the place of Bruce Lee, many producers figured the next best thing was to try and recreate Bruce Lee by getting guys who looked kinda, almost, sorta, a little similar to the real Bruce Lee and get them to ham it up in leading roles. This often produced some very disjointed and utterly bizarre pieces of cinematic history and I think this is why so many of us are drawn to it. This sort of thing just wouldn’t fly in the west, but the pure crazy idea of it is what makes it work. The Chinese Connection II is actually one of the few I have seen so far that actually have a fairly presentable plot involved. At least this isn’t Bruce Lee coming back from the grave or taking on espionage missions after faking his death, Bruce Li just plays the brother of Bruce’s character… a brother with the same style haircut, wears similar clothes and even has a sequence where his clothes are ripped off and he is sliced in almost the exact same way as Bruce Lee was in Enter the Dragon! Hey, you have to squeeze some fun in there right? So, with a plot that makes at least a decent lick of sense and some really great kung fu and possibly Bruce Li’s best performance (considered by most to be the most talented and overall the best of the imitators) – Chinese Connection II reaches the standards set forth by the first film and actually competes!
The original Chinese Connection is probably my favorite Bruce Lee film not titled Enter the Dragon, so when I say that Chinese Connection II actually lives up to the predecessor – that’s a pretty decent compliment right there. Just for your information. The story here actually seems like a nice way to continue the series, and although I haven’t seen the Jackie Chan picture New Fists of Fury which I hear has much the same storyline but isn’t as well made, I’ll still layer on the praise for this film. Lo Lieh and Bruce Li are pitted against each other in this film, as they were in Fists of Bruce Lee but this time the payoff is far greater with a martial arts bout I had been waiting to see from these two. It’s kind of hard for me to believe the agility and acrobatics of these two in that final sequence (truthfully I wouldn’t be shocked if doubles were used) but it is played perfect and features some magnificent work from both men and might be the best fight sequence I have seen from either men. I’ll take this fight scene over anything from Five Fingers of Death, which Lieh is probably best known for but in my opinion didn’t get to showcase everything he is capable of. Lieh always seems to shine as a villain, whether it’s here or the old priest in Fists of the White Lotus – something about being evil seems to bring out a stirring performance from Lieh. Here he is as evil as they come, playing the leader of the terrible Japanese group which has moved into Shanghai to occupy it. Following in the original Chinese Connection’s footsteps, this film once again isn’t the most “open” about the relationship between the Chinese and the Japanese, but it’s kind of expected. However if you share Japanese ancestry, just be prepared to hear the Japanese referred to as dogs, villains and generally the worst bad guys on earth. The future remake Fist of Legend with Jet Li would show a little more respect between the two cultures, but Chinese Connection II just reflects many feelings towards the Japanese at the time and hey, at least there were no ninjas this time!
Although not a perfect film by any characterization, CCII is probably one of the better faux-Bruce Lee flicks you’re going to pick up. Bruce Li is perfect in the role and shows why so many consider him the best. He mimics the over the top exaggerations of Lee, while also performing in a more “modern” form of on-screen Kung Fu. Where Lee’s fight scenes usually ended with one or two punches before knocking out his enemies, Li copies Lee’s charismatic showmanship while incorporating it into the more traditional “punch, block, counter, punch, block, counter, etc.” of what is/was considered the modern approach to fight choreography. Although never slow, there are points in the film where you just pray that our hero will teach the Kung Fu schools how to stand up for themselves, just so the scenes with the Japanese torturing them throughout their lives won’t get so monotonous. Another thing that might make it hard for most to really “get into” is the fact that the transfer is absolutely horrible. Taken from a umpteenth VHS bootleg I guarantee it, the film just looks terrible but if you’ve been on the bootleg circuit for many years it’s nothing you’re not comfortable with. Despite it all, this is probably the most entertaining Brucesploitation film I have seen yet and I definitely recommend it!
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