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July 2011

Young Bruce Lee

cast: Tony Leung, Aarif Rahman, Christy Chung, Jin Auyeung, and Michelle Ye

directors: Manfred Wong and Wai Man Yip

115 minutes (15) 2010
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Cine Asia DVD Region 2

RATING: 8/10
review by Alexandra Bunning

Young Bruce Lee

This is a biopic covering the early years of the life of the martial arts legend. Based on the book Bruce Lee My Brother written by Robert Lee, this two-disc DVD set looks at Bruce Lee's life from his birth in 1940 to his departure to America at the age of 19. I have to admit, I was very pleasantly surprised with Young Bruce Lee. The blurb for this DVD describes it as "showcasing an incredible hi-impact tribute to the celebrated Coliseum fight from Way Of The Dragon," but, in fact, the cover and product description are very misleading. If you are anticipating an action-packed kung fu movie, or an exhilarating look at Bruce Lee's martial arts training, you may well be disappointed in this endearing look at his formative years through the (perhaps rather biased) eyes of his brother. If however, you're interested in a well made and engaging look at Bruce Lee as a man, rather than a legend, you should be well satisfied.

This film does a wonderful job of illustrating Bruce's life as a child and teenager growing up in Hong Kong. His friends, his family, his adolescent love life, and his burgeoning career in the Hong Kong film industry are all well depicted in this engaging coming-of-age movie. Despite the focus on Bruce himself, the film also looks at the interactions and relationships of his entire family and their acquaintances, and the very uncertain state of Hong Kong itself during the war and the Japanese occupation.

The cinematography is well done, the acting is convincing (and Aarif Rahman makes for a very believable Bruce) and the narrative is absorbing. Oddly, the one real complaint I have to make about this film is the one thing one would expect to play a large part of the storyline. I found that the role of martial arts as a part of Bruce Lee's life was addressed in a very haphazard manner. Bruce's first lessons in martial arts are never really discussed, so it is not clear when he first began learning. The theme of martial arts is really only shown from the point of his lessons in wing chun as a teenager. There are a couple of rather entertaining fights in this film, but as mentioned previously, I can imagine that these would hardly satisfy those who are looking for a martial arts film. In general however, if you're interested in Bruce Lee as more than just the star of Enter The Dragon, this film should be of interest.

Extras: a second disc contains the special features, including a production diary gallery, deleted scenes, and a featurette Memories Of The Master which looks at 'memories of Bruce' by some of the people who knew him later in life. The special features are certainly better than the majority of DVDs, but aren't as impressive as one might hope. The deleted scenes don't particularly add anything to the narrative, and the featurette is perhaps more interesting for the photographs taken (by one of the interviewees) of Bruce and his children than for any real revelations about his life. The production diary gallery is an odd collection of behind-the-scenes snippets that are so short, and the production values are so low, that I found it very hard to stay interested in them for very long. On the plus side, there are 15 of them, so chances are that you will at least find one to interest you. In general however, I would consider the second disc to be an add-on to the first, rather than an asset in its own right.



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