While his time in America, his relationship with wife Linda, his kung fu movie career (including the likes of Fist of Fury and Enter the Dragon) and his influence as a martial arts master have all been well documented in various films and documentaries over the years, Young Bruce Lee takes a look at the ‘Little Dragon’s’ life before his move to the US. Produced by his brother, Robert Lee, the film shows Bruce’s life in Hong Kong from the early 1940’s to the late 1950’s as he grows up dealing with war, persecution, street gangs and that trickiest of teenage obstacles, girls. His martial arts training, under the tutelage of the highly influential Ip Man, is also touched on (albeit briefly) but this is the story of Bruce Lee as a boy and a young man, set before he became the international icon he is seen as today.
This is a good looking biopic, seemingly well researched and presented with fine period detail. Slick and made without a need for sensationalism, Young Bruce Lee is a respectful delve into Bruce Lee’s earlier life and an interesting look as his early years in Hong Kong (including his stint as a child film star), a part of his life that hasn’t always been seen. As mentioned, his life as a martial arts whizz, global movie star and the mysteriousness around his death have all been well documented over the years but Young Bruce Lee is strictly about his early years. Very much a biopic and not a martial arts film, Young Bruce Lee follows a predictable formula, hitting important events in Lee’s life one after the another and if you are not into biopics as a rule then the film may not offer you much. Having said that, the film has been made with care and it has to be said, Bruce Lee always led a fascinating life whether as an adult or as a youngster.
Aarif Rahman makes for a convincing teenage Bruce Lee and shows considerable fighting skill in the film’s one standout fight scene: a tribute fight to the Coliseum brawl from Way of the Dragon, where Bruce and a young gweilo boxer, go toe-to-toe. However, this is not a martial arts film so don’t expect lots of high impact fights but rather a respectful look at the eventful life of an icon. Well made and acted with passion, Young Bruce Lee may not do anything different from any other biopic out there but is still a fascinating look (for those interested in the ‘Little Dragon’ at least) at an important period in Bruce Lee’s life.
Young Bruce Lee is out now on DVD and Blu-Ray from Cine Asia. The widescreen presentation is crisp and clear and the film comes packed with features including deleted scenes, audio commentary by martial arts movie guru Bey Logan, trailers, 14 making of featurettes and the excellent featurette ‘Memories of the Master.’
Review by Andrew Skeates