January 13, 2013

Filthy Review - 'I Am Bruce Lee'

I Am Bruce Lee (2011)

Review by Jude Felton

Everyone knows who Bruce Lee was, whether it was through his films, his incredible fighting skills or just the image of him in a yellow jump suit. His legacy is incredible and he has managed to transcend just about everything to become an almost mythical figure. My introduction to this amazing individual was through his final film, Enter the Dragon. I’d never seen a film like it, and it has set the standard for martial arts movies ever since. If it was not for Bruce Lee action cinema would be very different today.

This documentary about Bruce did have a small theatrical release, and also aired on Spike TV (here in the States) back in early 2012, but it is only now getting a Blu-ray (and DVD) release over here. It has been worth the wait though, as this is a concise and informative hour and a half. Compiled of interviews with the likes of Kobe Bryant, Ed (Al Bundy) O’Neill, Dana White and many more, include Lee’s widow, Linda, and daughter, Shannon, who speak about the man and the legacy.

Also included are clips from his movies, which we’ve probably all seen before, and more interestingly interviews with the man himself and footage of Lee from tournaments and exhibitions. Honestly, the footage of his 1 inch and 6 inch punches is quite incredible; you really would not want to get hit by this guy. Fighting aside though, I Am Bruce Lee, really gets into the mind of who Bruce Lee was, he was an incredibly intelligent and focused man, and knew exactly what he wanted from life.

We also get treated to footage of him training the likes of James Coburn, and learn some real insights into the impact he had, away from the world of film. Of course, with someone like Bruce Lee, whose impact on modern culture is quite amazing, there is only so much that can be fit into a 90 minute documentary, so you aren’t going to get a complete biography of him. However, this is a rather excellent film, and serves as a wonderful introduction to his legacy. There was plenty that I had not previously known or seen, and it made for excellent viewing. It was especially touching to see his wife and daughter talk so fondly of him.

If I did have any problem with I Am Bruce Lee it would be the constant comparisons and talk of the UFC and MMA. Yes, they are both very popular right now, and this is after all a Spike TV production (which airs a lot of UFC in the States), but Bruce Lee and modern day MMA fighters are worlds apart. There is no one alive that fights like Lee did and, although his influence on the modern sport is glaringly apparent, to think it would even be a fair fight against any of these MMA fighters is just amusing. Lee was a world apart, and this documentary goes a long way in showing this.

With this in mind it should be said that this documentary was quite obviously made with a lot of love and respect for the late superstar. There is genuine admiration and passion from all involved, and it makes for excellent viewing.

The Blu-ray release, from Shout! Factory, is terrific throughout. On top of the documentary itself, which is crystal clear (aside from some of the grainier old home video footage) there are also a good selection of extras included. Bruce Lee’s Hollywood audition, Backyard training, which is compiled from Lee’s personal films, a look at his global impact and more are all included here. Whether you’re a fan, expert or complete newcomer to the phenomena that was, and is, Bruce Lee, there is definitely going to be something here for everyone. Great viewing.

I Am Bruce Lee is released on Blu-ray and DVD by Shout! Factory on January 15th.

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