So far this month, sitting through these movies has been a real breeze. I had been having a swell time up until now picking them apart, discovering new and interesting ways to watch these flicks and commenting on some of the more outlandish things done throughout. Then along comes Dragon Lee Vs. The Five Brothers with its terrible picture and audio quality, it’s tremendous amount of plotting and completely uninteresting story that ultimately kicked me in the throat. Although it has its moments and there are some fun ideas at work in this movie, the attempt at creating a very plot driven Kung Fu flick without the interesting characters just doesn’t work. With movies like Master Killer and Five Deadly Venoms, you were able to get involved with these characters. You could sit back and really dig into them, then when the really great training sequences or super powered villains came into play it just seems like icing on the cake. That’s just not the case here. Characters are introduced, their ulterior motives are exposed, we follow them for a while and then the plot switches gears and we watch similar events transgress with these other characters until we’re left with the final showdown. There’s just no heart here and no matter how much Dragon Lee himself tries to ham it up, the movie just remains an uninteresting mess.
Although it’s a Brucesploitation flick just for having Dragon Lee in the star, if you come into this one expecting anything really over the top in terms of Bruce Lee copying you’ll be sorely disappointed. Dragon Lee does do his best at impersonating the famous Lee in his style of fighting, doing the Bruce Lee nose flick in almost every single fight scene at least three times, but aside from that it’s really just your average low budget old school flick. This is my first Dragon Lee vehicle, though I’ve heard a lot about him before and maybe seen him here and there, this marks the first time I’ve watched him in a starring role. His resemblance to Bruce Lee is, like most Bruce imitators, rather limited. He actually looks more like Jason Scott Lee who played Bruce Lee himself in Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story. Maybe if Bruce had been more into pumping iron, Dragon Lee could be fairly passable. He’s just so much thicker than Bruce Lee ever was. Although not approaching Bolo Yeung standards, Dragon Lee is certainly one of the more physically impressive specimens from the time.
I suppose one positive comment I could make would be on the setting of the movie. Rarely do we get martial arts movies that take place during a winter setting. That’s kind of interesting, right? We get scenes of snow and a lot of smoke out of the mouths of characters as they speak. It’s one of the few things the movie has going for it that I haven’t seen elsewhere. Aside from that the five fighters are really the most interesting thing about the entire movie. Really if there’s something they really missed out on exploiting, ahead of the winter landscape, it would be these guys. Iron Hand is the real winner of the group and possibly the only character they got right. His “iron” hand is obviously just a silver glove in most scenes and I love how they didn’t even try to really hide this fact. During his first real fight scene, he seems like a Michael Jackson impersonator in contest against Dragon Lee’s take on Bruce Lee. The rest of the five fighters are simply regular guys though with better than average martial arts ability. It just seems to me rather unfortunate that there’s not as much focus on these characters, who actually could have been really interesting, but instead we’re forced to follow this very convoluted plot. I’m not against a decent story within a Kung Fu film mind you. Not at all. If you can deliver a really well plotted script with fewer fight scenes, I will be the first to commend that course of action. However, that just can’t be achieved when a movie is so poorly made. Believe me, there’s also difference in something that’s poorly made and then something that is boring and poorly made. If this movie had delivered more on the gimmicky Kung Fu fighters, it could have at the very least made up for the hard to follow plot. Instead, you basically get four tough fighters and one guy with an iron hand then a TON of plot that you’ll likely be bored with after the first ten minutes.