Goodbye Bruce Lee | Varied Celluloid

Goodbye Bruce Lee

Posted by On December - 5 - 2009
The Plot: Our story starts with Bruce Li playing a young martial artist who bears a strong resemblance to the late Bruce Lee. He is soon contacted by some producers who have noticed this resemblance and want him to take over the lead role on Bruce Lee’s unfinished film. So, after gathering in their office, they then show the leftover footage from this long lost movie in which Bruce Li plays Bruce Lee. You see, that’s the last we see of Bruce Li playing himself. The rest of our running time is simply the unfinished film itself. Inside of this new story we’re shown Bruce taking his girlfriend home from a walk, when all of a sudden he spots a man being stabbed! Bruce intervenes but not fast enough to save the gentleman’s life and as he dies, the man asks Bruce to go to his wife and deliver a mysterious bag. When Bruce arrives to tell the widow of the situation, she goes into hysterics about her son who is also in trouble! She has a package that needs to be delivered to him, but who could ever do it? Well, Bruce Lee can! So with that he’s on his way, but unknown to him the entire situation was a trap. The man wasn’t killed and the woman has no son, they plan on using Bruce to deliver the box (which is packed full of hard cash!) and that makes him a marked man. Now Bruce must team with his brother in order to take this box of money to the police and put a stop to these criminals! However, Bruce’s brother is soon kidnapped and the money is missing! With these racketeers breathing down his neck, Bruce will be forced to fight back!

The Review
There’s no getting past it, I do so ever love me some Brucesploitation. Most are absolutely atrocious, but there’s an allure to them for fans of trash cinema. The fact is, no matter how decent the overall product may be at the end of the line – just being a Brucesploitation flick already puts the movie into a realm of really bad taste. If this is your first review for a Brucesploitation flick, the quick rundown is that after Bruce Lee’s death many producers in Hong Kong looked to continue with his enormous success by casting actors who looked similar (or in most cases, didn’t) to him in stories that capitalized either on his movies or his life’s story. It’s the exploitation of a deceased star, so there’s NO excuse for it! However, if you have a sense of humor about you – these flicks can range from being mildly entertaining to a laugh riot. In the case of Goodbye Bruce Lee: His Last Game of Death, it DEFINITELY fits into the laugh riot section. I have to say, this has easily jumped into my top three Brucesploitation flicks, right up there with Dragon Lives Again and Bruce Lee Rises From the Grave. It is at the same time so incredibly awful yet so absolutely hilarious. First of all, coming off of my review of Bruce Lee’s Fists of Vengeance you may think it’s hypocritical of me to give this film praise for being so awful yet disrespect the other for somewhat similar sounding criticisms. The difference is an easy one, Fists of Vengeance may be an even worse film from a technical standpoint but it doesn’t pack in the fun that Goodbye Bruce manages to attach to each frame. This is a campy, silly and action packed Kung Fu flick that is so oblivious to its own ineptitude that it’s almost glorious in its naivete. Fists of Vengeance just came off as a cheap ripoff looking to cash in without putting much effort into their production.

The story jumps around more than Bruce Li actually does. I covered it in the plot summary but I want you to realize just what we’re talking about here. First we’re watching the story of this young Bruce Lee imitator, who wanders the streets with his girlfriend after gymnastics practice. Next thing you know he’s being offered a chance to become ‘Bruce Lee, the second!‘ by these producers. So at this point you’re thinking ”Oh, okay, so we’ll go through a little Game of Death style montage and the rest of the movie will be about the making of these extra scenes with maybe some espionage thrown in for good measure?”. Wrong. After ten minutes into our new ‘movie’ I quickly realized the dirty trick the film had pulled on us. Once it gets rolling though, it doesn’t take long to forget about the very loose beginning as this new story unfolds without any real tie in to the first ten or so minutes. Then the plot of this movie within a movie is almost impossible to keep up with. In one of my favorite scenes Bruce Li is confronted by one of these bosses who are looking for the missing money and the villain actually flip-flops back and forth for almost no reason. He starts the confrontation off as a nice guy, explaining how he is Bruce Li’s girlfriends boss and that the money actually belongs to him. Bruce doesn’t believe the money is honest though and confronts the boss about it – so in a complete 180º degree rotation he claims to have kidnapped Bruce Li’s girlfriend. Why the villain would say this and then let Bruce Li use the phone, I have no idea but the next thing we see is Bruce Li using a phone to call his girlfriend, who is at the boss’ place of work. She says she’s stuck and was asked to work a couple of extra hours after work. So after Bruce hangs up, the boss says he actually didn’t kidnap her. Absolute waffling on the part of the writer and it makes no logical sense what so ever. Why was any of it included in the film if it didn’t actually further the plot? Just to show that our lead villain is a liar and a sissy? What?

If you’re still on the fence about whether or not this sounds like it’s going to be fun, let me throw something at you. Are you ready? How about… a fake Kareem Abdul Jabar. That’s right. You just read that correctly. Just when you think the plot couldn’t rip off Game of Death any worse, you get this guy. I guess the filmmakers thought “hey, he’s kind of tall and he’s black, let’s throw a jersey on him and he can play the part!”. I guess it must have turned out a lot less spectacular than they at first planned as the fight sequence is cut to bits. You see, this fake Kareem must not have impressed the filmmakers with his speed because every punch he throws seems to have four or five frames shaved off of them in order to give the appearance that he’s punching with a lot more speed and fury than was actually the case. The effect is so jarring and obvious, god knows why they kept it in, but I’m glad that they did. If there’s a reason that film geeks should track this one down, it is without a doubt the fake Kareem Abdul Jabar. You can get fake Bruce Lee’s by the truck load but a fake Kareem? Now that counts for something! Actually, I take it back, Kareem might be the number one reason to see this one but it’s tied with the blaxploitation sounding theme song. King of Kung Fu, as performed by Candy may be the most annoying and catchy theme song in any movie ever. Ever present throughout the course of the movie, you’ll be sick of it by the movie’s end but you’ll still be humming it for hours.

The fight sequences are fairly well done for what they are. The fight choreography doesn’t exactly match Bruce Lee’s style, but it’s closer than most Hong Kong efforts. Where Bruce Lee usually seemed to dispatch of his foes with a single strike during most fight sequences, the majority of Hong Kong Kung Fu flicks would feature back and forth counter strikes that get more and more technical as they go along. Goodbye Bruce Lee actually reaches a middle ground. It has it’s series of fights where Bruce Li is taking on a dozen guys only to knock them down with one or two strikes, but as the movie goes along there’s still some of that more traditional Kung Fu element where the fight scenes seem to get more and more complex. Especially when the movie enters into its Game of Death ripoff stages. Yeah, there’s a Game of Death ripoff portion of the movie in the last twenty or so minutes. Bruce Li enters a pagoda only to do battle with a series of varying martial artists. I’ve heard this sequence described as being boring, where I don’t agree with that I can see where someone might see that. It is quite literally six fight scenes strung together for almost no reason. It’s completely nonsense in terms of the actual plot, but the fight scenes are most definitely entertaining. If for no other reason than to see how silly the caricatures are that he ends up fighting. There’s a grizzled Caucasian who growls (maybe a pro-wrestler?), a black boxer, a Japanese samurai and several others. Totally strange stuff better suited for a Jimmy Wang Yu flick, but just another puzzle piece in the strange world of Goodbye Bruce Lee.

The Conclusion
At the end of the movie, there are literally a hand full of plot lines that go nowhere. Keeping up with the plot to this movie is an impossibility, but it’s so goofy that you just have to have fun with it. I know I nearly died laughing. For what it is, this is classic cinema. It can in no way be considered “good” or “decent”, but for all of it audacious silliness I have become a total fan. I give it a four out of five!




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