Our good friend and colleague, Paul Lazenby was lucky enough to get an advanced screening of the new documentary “I am Bruce Lee”. The film which opens in select US cities on Feb. 9 & 15, tells the amazing story of one of the most iconic human beings ever to enter the public consciousness. Voted as one of the most important people of the 20th century in Time Magazine’s Time 100, as well as one of the Greatest Pop Culture Icons by People Magazine, Bruce Lee continues to be honoured and remembered for his enduring legacy. Below is the review which was written by Paul Lazenby.
“I Am Bruce Lee” movie review and reaction
“This afternoon it was my distinct honour to be included in a small, invitation-only audience for a showing of “I Am Bruce Lee”, the newest documentary about the iconic martial arts superstar. This was the first screening of the film anywhere in the world, and as such it was attended by none other than Bruce Lee’s widow Linda and his daughter Shannon (SHAMELESS PLUG: both of them stopped to compliment the newly-released “Jeet Kune Do” T-shirt I was wearing, available now at www.RootsOfFight.com).
The film was a brave undertaking by director Pete McCormack (“Facing Ali”) who had to be feeling considerable pressure to somehow cover ground that dozens of other Lee documentaries and biopics hadn’t covered before.
In fact, just before sitting down to write this review, I was asked point-blank what made this film anything more than “a bunch of famous people talking about how great Bruce was”. And I have to admit that, in part, that’s exactly what it was.
An eclectic slew of personalities including Kobe Bryant, Taboo from The Black Eyed Peas, Ed “Al Bundy” O’Neill and UFC president Dana White sat before the camera to give their take on what Lee’s influence meant to them personally and the cinematic and martial arts worlds on the whole. Frankly, I could have done without Taboo, who said nothing of substance and seemed to have been inserted into the film for reasons of name recognition alone.
Also interviewed were many of the characters you’d expect, including Lee’s former co-stars Bob Wall, “Judo” Gene Lebell (who provides some of the movie’s best-delivered one-liners) and Dan Inosanto, giving further insight into the man who, in the words of Inosanto’s daughter Diana Lee, “put balls on Chinese men”.
(Of particular note was former Strikeforce fighter and star of “Haywire” Gina Carano, who looked to be working herself up to a low-level orgasm while discussing Lee’s sexiness)
But what distinguished this movie from any other was the footage of Linda and Shannon Lee. McCormack wisely decided to give Linda more screen time than any other interviewee, and along with footage from “The Dragon’s” only televised sit-down interview, her anecdotes and opinions anchored the film. She described conflicts between Lee and various producers (one of which locked down the set of Lee’s most successful movie just as it was going to camera), home life during the time that Lee struggled to establish his name in America, and the tolls that fame took on him and his death took on her.
Refreshingly, this film was not uniformly complimentary, as McCormack did not shy away from sensitive topics and opinions. When the question was raised of whether or not Bruce Lee was the father of MMA, UFC president Dana White’s firm “yes” was matched by Bob Wall’s equally-emphatic “no”. When asked if Lee could have really beaten Chuck Norris (who he defeated onscreen in “The Way of the Dragon”), Gene Lebell responded: “If you told me that Bruce could beat Chuck, I’d say ‘how much you wanna bet?'”. And the eyebrow-raising opinions weren’t limited to the film’s subject, as UFC light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones offered some truly bizarre ideas about what he’s really doing when he’s smashing an opponent in the Octagon.
While there were some notable absences from the interview footage including Chuck Norris, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and John Saxon, overall I found McCormack’s thorough and meticulously-researched piece of work to be as good a Bruce Lee documentary as you’re going to find anywhere, and I highly recommend that you take your first opportunity to see it. The official Canadian debut is scheduled for March, but the film opens tomorrow in the US and a list of screenings can be found at www.IAmBruceLee.com.
Thanks for this review and to check out more of “The Mauler’s” goodies head over to PaulLazenby.com.