Enter the Dragon Review
Updated: Jul 1, 2020
"Enter the Dragon", Warner Bros, 1973
Up until this point, I had never seen anything like this and I'm so glad that I now have. It strikes a methodical balance between cinema as a mode of spectacle and as a platform of art, revelling a surprising amount of hidden meaning.
It's so far removed from a reality which me/western audiences perceive. Although this may be due to the choppy pacing and directing, I feel the almost camp-like way that characters interact and the plot develops unravels a loveable charm that super infectious. Whilst the film's odd character takes a while to appreciate (the first act can at times be very patience testing), I feel the filmmakers use it to explore the notion of self-discipline, masculinity, showmanship and enterprise in thought-provoking ways. This is cleverly hidden behind the wonderfully choreographed and engaging fight sequences and the parallels in the diegesis with the spy-is-tasked-with-a-mission trope, which the filmmakers appear to have fun time utilising and exploring. I feel this template is effective in encoding poignant imagery that the story returns to (gambling, strength of will and diversity within an enclosed community). Although this may be often forced very cack-handedly (one character just appears taking a dislike to Caucasian characters), I feel this took a considerable amount of thought given the film's label as a mere "martial arts" film, such as the sombre tone that approaches sex trafficking and class inequality that underlines a reality of those living a life with no discipline. The fact that it at least tries to address these issues is impressive and highlights the film's beating heart. This can be seen with the unorthodox cinematography during many of the fight sequences. Whilst tournament fighters are composed in unconventional ways that often leaves a lot of negative space, the fights that are more intregal to the plot have an entirely unique aesthetic which I find engaging.
Nevertheless, this doesn't come without its flaws. Some of the sequences that don't include fighting standing shoulder to shoulder with fight sequences come across as poorly-realised with a lack of tonal consistency. To take a contemporary comparison, I can find the same amount of enjoyment watching Bond fight as watching Bond not fight. I feel the moment-to-moment flow of the plot was an afterthought after the board meetings discussing the fight sequences. This can also be seen with the almost formalist style of performances that the actors accidentally slip into, often coming off as caricatures of their race group they're representing, as funny as it is. I feel this cuts off the different avenues for audience identification beyond their stance as a viewer of Lee's seamlessly Superhuman ability. I feel this is topped off by the editing style, which as much as it enhances the exuberant energy, feels super dated and highlights the cobbled-together approach to the film's sense of continuity.
Overall, however, Enter The Dragon is a very fun film to watch. To me its more than a film to simply go back and appreciate - I think that the contemporary approach towards action in movies nowadays has become stale. The industry could take a lot from this film.