Young Bruce Lee (UK - BD)
Marcus watches the Little Dragon when he was little, in this Bruce Lee biopic...
Young Bruce Lee is the latest biopic giving us more insight into the martial arts master’s life and with the stories in this movie taken largely from Bruce Lee’s brother and sister (in fact the real title for this movie is Bruce Lee, My Brother), we see the period of Bruce Lee’s life before he went to America and became the global icon he is today.
Bruce Lee (played by Aarif Rahman here), or Phoenix as his grandmother named him, didn’t really have the background you’d expect. Those of you who come to this movie looking for “how to become Bruce Lee” or at least how to train like him may find yourself a little disappointed as the expected martial arts or fight scenes are few and far between and are all loaded towards the backend of the two hour runtime. What we get instead is quite a warm look at his family life; his mother and father’s growing family; his mischievous childhood and his love of American music. In fact, there’s probably a little more dancing than fighting in the movie as a whole.
This change of pace is actually quite good to see. For starters seeing a biopic where the lead character doesn’t become addicted to drugs or screwing over women made this all feel a little more watchable, the warmth of his family life is also felt throughout and seeing Bruce Lee slowly heading towards his training had a good pace for the most part (however there is a distinct lull in the middle where I found myself saying “get on with it already”).
Once the fighting does get going, fans of Bruce Lee should get quite a kick out of it. For starters there’s a great boxing match where we get to see Bruce show off his speed (and let’s face it, Bruce Lee fans love seeing anything that shows Bruce Lee making any other fighting skills look ineffective) and following that there’s a big ol’ homage to Way of the Dragon in a more gritty bare knuckle rematch that really shows off what we all love about him. Fast, controlled and filled with a great deal of attention to detail to make this feel like a real Bruce Lee fight.
Really this one treads a fine line between being quite exciting and a great insight into Bruce Lee’s early life and feeling a little too biopic-y. The threads with his friends and his potential girlfriends do feel a little dragged out in places and a little too forced, drama wise to push him towards martial arts, but at the same time I can’t say that I didn’t come away entertained. Aarif Rahman made Bruce a likable character and even though the small details aren’t all that memorable, Young Bruce Lee made me feel like I’d learnt a bit more about this icon of cinema and they were all elements I was not all that aware of.
It’s actually quite hard to find many negatives with this very clean looking transfer. The image is striking in its grainless, well lit glory and really the only thing that lets it down is some soft edges.
Colours and especially skin tones are sort of natural. I say sort of because the entire film has a tanned feel to it. It’s by no means sepia but the colourisation of the film has a certain beige feel to it, to make it feel like the era its set in. Because of that, colours rarely pop but they do still hold a presence within the scenes, especially for the girls' colourful dresses. Black levels are a mixed bag. Anything in the foreground of a shot looks stunning. Black Hair, clothes and shadows all deep and bold, whereas anything in the background can feel washed out and always less than totally black, instead feeling like a grey or even dark brown.
As for texture, the film's strong lighting can sometimes blast out lines in the younger characters faces, but for the older character, like Bruce Lee’s dad, you can see every pore, especially when he’s in his theatrical stage make up and his face is really quite striking. As I said, this transfer is a great one, even if on closer inspection it’s not quite reference quality, it still does a fine job at showing off a warm, bright, summery feeling film.
This DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is quite contained and really only unleashes its full effects when it wants to play. The dialogue is always strong and quite centre speaker based but when any hint of action rears its head all of the speakers get to come to the party. Crazy martial arts inspired sonics dance through the 5.1 system as fights are started and they all feel very seventies in design (i.e. very cool). There’s also a good punchy bit of bass in the impacts. Boxing gloves sound weighty and when Bruce starts the kicking in the later fight scene they sound like they hurt. Beyond that, there’s the odd bit of atmospheric noise, birds, crowds, etc. but it's never really all that noticeable.
I jumped straight into the Cine Asia exclusive documentary ‘Memories of the Master’ (30:40 HD) and other than spending the first half pretty much repeating what happened in the movie (with a bit more detail in places) it moves into what happened to Bruce when he arrived in America. There are stories of the people, actors and producers he hung out with and we’re shown plenty of great action photographs that made his name in the movie business. It’s nice, personal stuff and while it’s not the most detailed documentary I’ve ever seen, it’s a nice angle to view the actor’s life from.
The commentary by Bey Logan packs more detail about the movie in the opening ten minutes than most commentaries cover in ninety minutes. The movie's production, the family, general history of the era, other movies, he doesn’t miss a trick and the pace he keeps up for the entire movie is astonishing really. Once again this is a thoroughly informative track and perfect for fans of Asian cinema as well as Bruce Lee.
Delving into the other special features we have twelve deleted scenes and a whole host of ‘Production Diaries’. It’s easier to describe them as fifteen selections of on-set footage with the cast and crew and plenty of rehearsal footage. It’s split into sub sections but really these are all very similar and range from one to five minutes in runtime. Listing them all individually here would be a little tiresome as they are all very similar in their light tone and loose approach.
The ‘Intro to Cine Asia’ (22:53 SD) is a very long advertising piece (which feels like loads of mini ads woven together) but it’s packed with cracking clips and despite the repetitive nature of telling us how good Cine Asia discs are, there’s no denying they do put together pretty through releases time and time again—it’s just a shame they rattle on about Blu-ray but it's all presented in standard definition.
The ‘Trailer Gallery’ has the UK trailer (01:47 HD) and the original trailer (02:31 HD) and as always the ‘Also Available’ selection is packed with loads of other Cine Asia trailers (a whopping twelve this time out).
This release has a great transfer, a playful audio track and some solid, if not unfocused in places, extras. The film isn’t the martial arts fest you’d probably expect and fans of Bruce Lee who are after details of the man before he became the legend should find a lot of positive things in the movie, even if the fans of martial arts sit there wondering where’s all the fighting at? Young Bruce Lee seemed like a pretty cool guy and it was good to see this stuff even if it’s not the exciting part of his life we all know. I have to say though, his back story isn’t all that unlike the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air though right? Good kid, got into trouble, got shipped off to keep him safe… I wonder if he had an Uncle Phil to look out for him? Guess we’ll have to wait for the sequel.
* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 30th May 2011
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Cantonese, Dolby Digital 2.0 Cantonese
Extras: Commentary, Production Galley, Documentary, Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: Manfred Wong, Wai Man Yip
Cast: Aarif Rahman,Christy Chung, Tony Leung Ka Fai
Genre: Action and Drama
Length: 116 minutes
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