The Plot: In Hong Kong, there is an underground tournament where the most skilled fighters in the world come together in order to challenge one another in a deadly game of mortal combat. The year is 1989 and it looks like Chong Li (Bolo Yeung) is set to take the crown, but Masahiko Kai (Yasuaki Kurata) watches on and will have his revenge. Two years prior he had found his personal protege. A young Caucasian kid (Stuart Smith) who was running with some pretty rough crowds. However, Masahiko saw potential in the young man and knew that he could be a great fighter. So he takes him in only to find you can take the thug out of the streets but you can’t take the streets out of the thug. When Masahiko stumbles upon his young student trying to assault a young couple, he finds an even better student in Ryu Tenmai (Simon Yam). He does not want to learn the martial arts, but when he is attacked again by the same group and beaten he must have his revenge and so starts their partnership. What transpires in these two years wll define Masahiko’s life and journey.
…CONTINUE READING THE REVIEW HERE…
|The Plot: In Hong Kong, there is an underground tournament where the most skilled fighters in the world come together in order to challenge one another in a deadly game of mortal combat. The year is 1989 and it looks like Chong Li (Bolo Yeung) is set to take the crown, but Masahiko Kai (Yasuaki Kurata) watches on and will have his revenge. Two years prior he had found his personal protege. A young Caucasian kid (Stuart Smith) who was running with some pretty rough crowds. However, Masahiko saw potential in the young man and knew that he could be a great fighter. So he takes him in only to find you can take the thug out of the streets but you can’t take the streets out of the thug. When Masahiko stumbles upon his young student trying to assault a young couple, he finds an even better student in Ryu Tenmai (Simon Yam). He does not want to learn the martial arts, but when he is attacked again by the same group and beaten he must have his revenge and so starts their partnership. What transpires in these two years wll define Masahiko’s life and journey.|
Thankfully the movie doesn’t seem to last all that long and it really doesn’t take long to get into the action. I’m not kidding, it jumps right in there. The first ten minutes of the movie doesn’t even feature one word of dialogue, it’s all fight scenes for the most part. Starting with scenes that are directly lifted out of Bloodsport itself, including the famous bit where we meet all of the various fighters. We even get a monkey style fighter and a sumo wrestler, just like in Bloodsport. As stated previously though, if the film had stuck to doing this right it could have been a “so bad it’s good” kinda flick, but unfortunately right after those first ten minutes we go into flashback mode and the story doesn’t come anywhere close to being that awesome for another forty minutes. We have a ton of very cheesy melodrama that unfolds for us and I had essentially gave up hope at this point. I figured we’d have a lot of really bad drama with a concluding fight scene that truly would not live up to the hype. Thankfully though, we do get the return of Bolo and the ripping off of Bloodsport does get its chance to continue. We even get Bolo Yeung in the ring, after brutalizing a fighter, taking a bandanna from his head and waving it around to the audience just like in the Frank Dux masterpiece. Truly amazing that Bolo would sign on to do something that rips off another role of his so much, but I guess if you need the money bad enough…
For the ninety minutes that the movie lasts, there are about thirty minutes of it that are really worth talking about. Not that I look down on drama or decent character study, but here its done so poorly you really just want to drone out and wait for the next funny bits to happen. This is exactly what I felt when watching. Just a continual hope that the movie will make good on all of its promise of being an action packed, silly piece of fluff eighties action cinema. As a work of dramatic fiction, it just doesn’t begin to function properly. Mostly due to the odd performances and an infinite number of choices made during production. It’s hard to really come down hard on the cast because I know it’s not entirely their fault. Simon Yam, who is probably one of the best members of this cast, even he doesn’t get to put in a really great performance here. Yam usually doesn’t disappoint either. The young lady who plays Yam’s girlfriend also did a pretty decent job. They’re all overshadowed by the first disciple of Masahiko, played beyond compare by Stuart Smith. I don’t remember the character he plays ever being called by a name during the movie, which is weird since if anyone deserves special note in this movie it’s him. Regardless… he is AMAZING in his role. This may be the most over the top, ridiculous and terrible performance I have ever seen. It defies all that cinema has ever accomplished and spits in the face of all professional actors the world over. The guy reacts to everything like he’s just been told someone slept with his wife. Someone offers him free food? I WOULDN’T FEED THIS TO A DOG!!! Someone offers him free training at a gym? WHAT A DUMP!!! What about when a police officer mildly insults him? YOU BASTARD!!! This guy probably doesn’t deserve any other acting gigs, but I hope some day he comes out of retirement to blow all of our minds.
The story actually isn’t as contrived as you would expect from a movie as poor as this one generally is. There’s actually room in this script to make a fairly interesting movie if they got rid of all the Bloodsport references and shot the film in the native language of the actors. However, there’s just a massive amount of variables that got in the way and THIS is the movie that came about. It does have some silly little additions that keep it interesting. There’s the synth rock soundtrack and the endless stealing from Bloodsport. I personally find it hilarious that they didn’t even change Bolo Yeung’s character name from that film. Even though they change his look up slightly by placing a very fake looking snake tattoo on his forehead. Then, for those who might be wondering, Bolo doesn’t actually throw any mysterious powder into his enemies eyes this time around. No way, that would be far too easy. He does however use glass on his fists in a direct rip off of another Jean Claude Van Damme masterpiece: Kickboxer. At that point I just buried my head in my hands. It is on one hand an extremely cheap ploy by the writer in order to cash in on the popularity of Jean Claude’s popularity, but at the same time it’s one of the best moments of the movie because it’s so unintentionally hilarious. Oh if only the rest of it were more like this!
Even though I think it’s overall a bad movie and not one I recommend highly, I’m going to give it a two out of five. I debated whether or not it deserved a one out of five, but I think it deserves the extra point simply for the balls it has in brazenly ripping off Bloodsport. No fear of lawsuits here for some reason! You can find the film in the Fists of Vengeance box set from Mill Creek. You’ll get it as well as 15 other varying degrees of Martial Arts awfulness, but some of it is actually worth having. I seriously doubt you’ll find this to be one of the better flicks in this four disc set though.
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 Plot: Bruce Lee, before he passed away, authored one final book that was meant to remain a secret. In the martial arts community however, word soon spread and now Jack Lee, the man who holds the only copy, is stopping in to Manilla to visit his friend Peter (Bruce Le). Peter runs his own Tae Kwon Do school and greets Jack by taking him to a local martial arts contest. Peter is unfortunately beaten by a Caucasian rival who just so happens to be in town with nefarious intentions. When this evil gentleman discovered Jack would be transporting this book into the Philippines he gathered his best men to stake him out at the tournament. After dispatching of his own opponents in the tournament, Jack returns to his hotel room where he is jumped by six assassins… who are all handled quite easily, thanks to Jack’s studying of Bruce Lee’s secret book. They return to their master who lampoons them and finds his next set of employees to take on Jack Lee. Will this evil man succeed in stealing this most precious book or will Jack and Peter manage to keep it out of the hands of evil doers?|
Even though I do it for every review for one of these types of movies, for those of you unfamiliar with the Brucesploitation genre I’ll go into a little background information. The long and short of it is that after Bruce Lee died, the Hong Kong film industry lost the largest cash cow it had ever seen up until that point. So, with a lot of young talent hanging around and Bruce Lee’s name becoming even more legendary with each passing day, many producers started casting their movies with actors who bore some kind of resemblance with the famous actor. So from there we got Bruce Le, Bruce Li, Dragon Lee, Bruce Lai and others. I’ve reviewed a number of these movies on the site over the years and I just keep returning to the genre. Much like the Italian cannibal genre, there’s just so much bad out there that it completely overshadows what good there might be. However, unlike that genre, what is defined as “good” here is completely and utterly subjective. When I go into a Brucesploitation flick I’m looking for garbage cinema. I want something goofy, funny and above all else entertaining. Bruce Lee’s Fist of Vengeance is almost the antithesis of any of those qualities. Essentially, it’s rather dumb, poorly made but not silly or insane enough to be all that memorable.
The movie is just so cheap, I wish there was more information about it available out there. As it went along I just knew that it wasn’t your average Hong Kong production. In fact, it’s not even a Hong Kong production at all! Going off of appearances, at first I just figured It looked like some kind of mainland Chinese production, but with all the talk about Hong Kong it slowly had me thinking it was some kind of cheap independent Hong Kong release… but I knew that just wasn’t right. There’s the foreigner bad guys, the Karate outfits and the fact that Bruce Le actually teaches at a Tae Kwan Do academy… not normally stuff you see in that many Hong Kong flicks. For those of you who don’t know, Tae Kwan Do is generally more of a Japanese or Korean sport. Then I took note of the look of the extras, like those at the academy, and didn’t see really any solid Chinese features. Then I put things together and figured it was a Filipino film. It was only until the third quarter of the movie where I actually heard someone mention Manilla that I knew my instincts were correct. It could have possibly been stated earlier in the movie, I’m not sure, but you watch it and tell me how easy it is to actually make out a good majority of the dialogue here!
That leads me to my biggest conundrum with the movie. Was the terrible audio something that was messed up by the distributors here in the US when it was originally released or was it messed up in the trasnfer to DVD from VHS? If it was part of the initial distribution, I’m willing to judge it as a part of the film since it was a lot closer to the original filmmakers at that point. Yet, if it’s just a goof up on the DVD I’m going to feel bad for thrashing it… but still, I have to say, I have never seen dubbing this poor. Andreas Schnaas’ Zombie 90 Extreme Pestilence comes pretty close, but the two might have to share a podium for this one. We literally have gun shots being seen at least two to three full seconds before we actually hear them. We have characters who are apparently speaking English on set but are dubbed over with the same exact dialogue – but STILL manage to completely muck up the sync. It is frustrating while watching, but still leads to some of the better laughs found in the movie as it becomes so ridiculous and unintelligible. Well, part of that comes from the really poor plot progression, but that’s a given.
Going into Bruce Lee’s Fist of Vengeance, you know that it’s going to be bad. We all know that. However, there’s over-the-top bad where the film remains fun and doesn’t take itself so serious and then there’s dumb-bad. This is unfortunately more a case of the latter than the former. It certainly has it’s moments that shine, such as the first time Jack Lee opens the book by Bruce Lee; the scene was likely added by the US Distributors, but it’s a sequence where Jack opens the book and all of a sudden the theme to Enter the Dragon hits the soundtrack and we go into a two or three minute montage of still photographs of Bruce Lee only to come back out of it with Jack closing the book up. It’s so incredibly out of place and bizarre that I couldn’t help but kind of lose it at that point. Jack Lee is also tortured by having his legs placed over his head where his nose is buried into his crotch. Bruce Le sleeps with a spotlight above his bed where a Bruce Lee poster hangs above him. Then there’s that dubbing and some of the really odd dialogue choices. My favorite bit was from our Caucasian bad guy who was never given a name that I could pick up on. Well, Bruce Le yells the name out at one point but the audio was so atrocious I couldn’t actually understand him. Anyway, this white guy is talking to one of his girls who is supposed to go undercover to retrieve the great Bruce Lee Book of Information and he gives this sterling piece of advice: “You cannot fail… If you fail… I fail… and I don’t like that… I never fail.” Even when dubbed over, you can literally FEEL how stilted the performances are. Absolutely amazing.
The fight sequences here seem to get a lot of guff but I really didn’t have a major problem with them. Not to say that we’re dethroning Yuen Woo Ping or Sammo Hung with this one, but I didn’t see too much bad to put it on level with the fight choreography of Dolemite. The first showdown in Jack Lee’s hotel with the six assassins is both ridiculous and entertaining for its insanity. Jack manages to pin his opponent against the door with his back, then throws a kick over his shoulder three times in a row, busting the guy’s chops over and over again. Then the fight takes on a comedic edge as he start playing peak-a-boo with this magical book by Bruce Lee. It is unfortunate how repetitive the movie becomes though, as the good majority of the fight scenes all take place in this same location: Jack Lee’s hotel room. There must have been a short amount of time allotted for this set to be used or something because there are four or five fight scenes shot on this one location. Four or five out of probably seven total fight scenes. It’s an absolutely terrible movie, there’s no getting past that. The best bet of having fun with it is if you’ve got a room full of friends over but by and large, it’s not the best example of a fun Brucesploitation flick. I gave it a one out of five, because there are a few redeeming qualities and it’s not the worst movie ever made… but yeah, it’s pretty awful.
The Plot: The Chin Yin San killers are stopped by a martial arts school when they are on the verge of raping a young villager’s daughter. The students get the better of the fight, although they do lose one of their classmates in the midst of, but it’s just the start of the war. When they bring the young woman and her father back to their school, they become a target for the Chin Yin Chiefs. A group of extremely talented Tai Chi masters who kill without so much as thinking twice. These chiefs show up the very next day and threaten to murder the old man on the premises of the school. The lead master feels it is his duty to step up and defend his guests but unfortunately, the skill of the chiefs far outdoes that of the school and the master is killed on the spot. Now outcasts in their own community, the students take to the woods in hiding while training their bodies and minds in order to put an end to the Chin Yin Chiefs!
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