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ENTER THE GAME OF DEATH (1980) ** ½

For my money, Bruce Le was the greatest of all the Bruce Lee imitators.  He was probably also the most prolific, as he starred in no less than FOUR Bruceploitation movies in 1980 alone. 

 

Now Bruceploitation movies generally fall into two categories.  The first are movies that were made after Lee died that exploited his death by having Lee (played by another actor of course) come back from the grave to kick some ass.  The second kind was movies had nothing to do with Bruce Lee and were re-titled and marketed to make you think he was really in them.  This flick falls in the latter category. 

 

In the opening credits, Le dresses up in the familiar yellow and black get-up worn by Bruce Lee in Game of Death and practices his nunchuck moves in front of a red background while the credits roll (SUPER Starring: Bruce Le!).  Bruce smashes up some vases, flower pots and sandbags; then the plot begins.     

 

As the title implies, the film is more or less a mash up of Game of Death and Enter the Dragon, except it takes place during WWII.  After Bruce defeats Bolo Yeung (from Enter the Dragon) in a karate tournament, a mobster tries to hire him to be his bodyguard.  When Bruce refuses, the gangster sends his best men to rearrange his face, but Bruce easily kicks their collective butts.  The British government then gets Bruce to retrieve some “important documents” from the Japanese for them and Bruce says no way Jose.  After some dirty Japanese dudes rape his cousin, he says okay though.   Bruce then has to battle a series of baddies in order to find the documents.  There’s a bald Shaolin monk, a snake charmer who shoots venomous blood out of decapitated snakes, an old man, and a Jerry Garcia look-alike.  There’s even a Kareem Abdul-Jabbar imitator in there too.  He finally catches up to the main Jap villain who of course is the same bastard that raped his cousin, so you just know that Li is gonna tap dance on his sternum like Gregory Hines on Angel Dust.  The government double crosses Bruce so he has to obliterate Bolo AGAIN and hunt down the two-timing government agent who sold him out. 

 

The set-up is more or less intriguing, but the fight scenes lack panache and get a little repetitive after a while.  There’s no real suspense or momentum to the fights and they are all pretty interchangeable (except the snake dude, he’s cool).  The overuse of irritating super slo-mo gets a little annoying as well because when the fights are slowed down so much the seams in the unremarkable fight choreography show even more.  The only fights that have any oomph to them are the ones between Yeung and Li.  Their brawls are far and away the best thing the movie has going for it. 

 

Bruce and Bolo have three major fight scenes:  one a forest, another in the ring, and in the final climatic battle, in a handsomely landscaped grotto.  Bolo even has a great extended fight scene where he takes on several opponents in the ring Diggstown style and Steve James, a veteran of the American Ninja series, has an early role as one of the villain’s henchmen.  Both of these seasoned professionals bring something to the table and prevent the movie from being completely forgettable. 

 

But it’s Bruce Le who kicks the most ass in his fight scenes.  Le has a lot more charisma than any of the Bruce Lee imitators and his considerable screen presence makes what would have otherwise been a lackluster action flick worth watching; making Enter the Game of Death a hair or two better than most Bruceploitation flicks.  Le also starred in the excellent Challenge of the Tiger the same year. 

 

AKA:  The King of Kung Fu. 

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