Monday, September 24, 2012

Cringing Tiger, Ageless Dragon: "Exit the Dragon, Enter the Tiger" (1976)

Before his death, Bruce Lee (Bruce Li) meets with David (also Bruce Li). Lee tells David he will be the new martial arts master and will carry on for Lee. Lee dies.

David and the rest of the world mourn. Then, David finds out Lee's death is rather suspicious and begins to investigate. He teams with reporter George, and discovers Lee and actress Susie were approached to run drugs for a villain known as the Baron, and Susie made an audiotape of the offer. Susie hides in a hospital, and George is beat up by the villains looking for the tape. David avenges George's butt kicking, and gets hurt himself.

Kya takes care of David until he mends. The villains kidnap Susie. David manages to get the tape from her and gives it to George and Kya to turn over to the police. Kya is raped and George is killed for their trouble, setting up the final showdown between the Baron and David.

"Exit the Dragon, Enter the Tiger" is shocking. Not for anything good, but for taking an icon's death and turning it into a moneymaking action flick. Despite some good direction and three notable fight scenes (on a rooftop, in a stadium, and one on a seashore) the fact that the filmmakers used Lee's death to put Li in the spotlight is simply incredible.

I cannot come up with any similar circumstances in American film that anyone can associate with. We do see Lee on posters in people's homes, and news footage of his funeral (and body in the casket), and his image stays with you as you watch this sad attempt to cash in on his name.

I would feel differently if the film were any good. Aside from the big fight scenes, the investigation is silly and most of the martial arts are boring. Some fights run too long, the dubbing is bad, and the 1970s decor made my eyes tear up.

"Exit the Dragon, Enter the Tiger" is probably the worst film starring Li, who made a career passing himself off as Bruce Lee. The Dragon cannot be replaced, yet Li seems to have faded from film. (*) out of five stars.