Birth of the Dragon: Uninspiring, cliche and unentertaining

Leonardo Paley

Director George Nolfi has an interesting group of films under his belt. Nolfi’s first big film was Ocean’s Eleven, followed by The Bourne Ultimatum, The Adjustment Bureau, and The Last Stand. No one would consider any of these films boring. The Adjustment Bureau alone contains a twisting plot based off a Philip K. Dick short, “The Adjustment Team.”

Somehow, Nolfi followed these up with one of the least entertaining action movies in a long time.

Don’t let the title of the film fool you. Birth of the Dragon is hardly about Bruce Lee. The fight between Lee and Wong Jack Man is merely a loose background plot point that takes place an hour into the film. The real plot is about Steve McKee (Billy Magnussen), who is attempting to free an Asian girl who was brought to the states by an Asian mafia. Lee and Jack Man sit on either side of McKee as he learns what kung fu is really about and what drives it.

The film certainly tries to tackle deeper concepts, loosely falling on the age old discussion of tradition versus progression into the west and what makes happiness. But all of these come off as shallow attempts to make Lee and Jack Man sound like intelligent, deep masters of kung fu. Instead, both characters come off as entirely self absorbed. No one is likeable, every character is one dimensional and the character arcs feel forced and out of character (what little there is.)

For those who just want to see a decent action film, this is not the film for you. Philip Ng and Xia Yu are both talented fighters; Ng worked as a stunt coordinator on multiple films and is trained in Hung Kar Kung Fu, Jiu Jitsu, Taekwondo and Eskrima. Unfortunately, their one fight is over edited and taken too seriously by the film that has established that Lee doesn’t care about anything. There is one good fight at the end of the film, Lee and Jack Man fighting the mafia to save McKee’s girl.

Uninspiring, cliche and overall just unentertaining, Birth of the Dragon isn’t worth your time. It tries very hard, but is ultimately too shallow and lacks the drive to make it enjoyable. If you want a badass kung fu/fighting movie watch Old Boy on Netflix.

1/5 Sails

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