I have seen EVERY movie starring Bruce Lee. PS – That’s only 5 movies. Here’s a common theme in these movies: set up some guy or group as being pretty tough, then have Bruce very easily destroy the guy or group. Most of the fighters in these movies are Chinese, Japanese, or European/American whites. PS – I’m using common, international names for these movies (THE BIG BOSS, FIST OF FURY, RETURN OF THE DRAGON, ENTER THE DRAGON, GAME OF DEATH).
Almost all Chinese fighters are at least somewhat formidable, even if they look and act like clumsy asses. Take the Chinese guy that Bruce fights at the end of THE BIG BOSS (can’t remember its American name) – he just looks like an older, more Chinese version of Jim Meier but he gives Bruce a run for his money. So does the old dork with a fake hand in ENTER THE DRAGON. Other Chinese fighters are usually set up as being somewhat tough and live up to expectations, like the pricks near the end of GAME OF DEATH.
Whites are often set up as tough, only to be very easily disposed of. First, the most famous example – Chuck Norris in RETURN OF THE DRAGON. His character is supposed to be the karate world champion (if I remember correctly) but apparently he fights as a mercenary, as well. Eventually, he fights Bruce in the CLIMACTIC CONCLUSION fight, which is competitive for about 30 seconds before Bruce spends the rest of the fight breaking Chuck’s arm, leg and then neck with the greatest of ease. Or how about the Russian guy at the end of FIST OF FURY? Or O’Hara, the supposedly invincible guy in ENTER THE DRAGON? Or the fucking pro fighter in GAME OF DEATH that Lee doesn’t even break a sweat on? That’s right, in 4 of Lee’s 5 movies, there’s a white guy that is presented as somewhere between pretty tough to super touch, and Lee beats all their assholes without any problem. John Saxon is very unconvincingly presented as a tough fighter in ENTER THE DRAGON, an American-produced movie. His character doesn’t fight Lee.
Unless I’m mistaken, Japanese fighters only appear in FIST OF FURY but Jesus, are they pathetic – to the point that it’s not the least bit interesting. Basically, Lee strolls into a dojo and beats up every guy in the place every bit as effectively as Superman could manage. Yeah, I get it – it’s a statement and the Chinese hate the Japanese but, holy shit, it’s just dumb.
There’s a black dude, played by Kareem Abdul Jabar, that fights Bruce in GAME OF DEATH. He’s actually quite formidable. He was also Lee’s student in real life so perhaps that explains his unusual status as the only non-Chinese opponent to make Bruce sweat. One of the main characters in ENTER THE DRAGON is black but he’s killed pretty easily by an old Chinese geek.
Lee’s status as film icon is somewhat unearned. His movies always have long, boring stretches and they usually serve vehicles for him to easily destroy dudes. THE KARATE KID is way better than any Bruce Lee movie even though its fighting is slow and unimpressive. It’s the DRAMA that makes it exciting. Tony Jaa movies are a lot better than Lee movies, too – the stunts are boss and his charactesr don’t just beat everyone without blinking an eye.