The Way of the Dragon (1972)

way of the dragon poster 1972 movie bruce lee
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Bruce Lee's energy elevates the story

So-so plot and acting

Movie Info

Movie Name:   The Way of the Dragon

Studio:   Concord Productions Inc.

Genre(s):   Martial Arts/Action/Adventure

Release Date(s):  June 1, 1972 (Hong Kong)/August 14, 1972 (US)

MPAA Rating:   R

way of the dragon bruce lee martial arts

You don’t know who you are messing with

Tang Lung (Bruce Lee) has been sent to Rome by his uncle to help Chen Ching-hua (Nora Miao) and her uncle Wang (Wang Chung-hsin) whose restaurant is being menaced by a gang led by Ho (Paul Wei) under the control of the mafia boss (John T. Benn).  Tang must first help Chen’s workers learn Tang’s style of fighting and then Tang must take the fight to the boss…and stop the attacks once and for all!

Written and directed by Bruce Lee, The Way of the Dragon (猛龍過江 or Meng long guo jiang) was originally released as Return of the Dragon in the United States.  The film followed Lee’s successful Fist of Fury (aka The Chinese Connection) in 1972.  The film was well received by critics and a box office hit.

Bruce Lee was the king of the martial arts movement in film.  His energy and style really brought a style to the genre and just leaps off the screen.  While I think Enter the Dragon is a better film, The Way of the Dragon is still a fun film.

way of the dragon chuck norris thumbs down

Chuck Norris does not approve of Bruce Lee…

The story combines a lot of aspects of different martial arts movies.  You have the outsider gain the respect of the people around him and raise them to his level.  You have betrayal and evil boss that needs to be taken down (plus, a semi-romance that never really develops).  All the pieces are there and they are mixed with humor (like the cat edited into Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris’ fight).  The film isn’t as cohesive as Enter the Dragon, but it primarily is a showcase for Lee.

Bruce Lee continues to be one of the most fun actors in the genre.  He is over-the-top, loaded with energy (with his dancing fighting style), and he is extremely likable as a lead who realizes he is allowed to have a sense of humor.  The other actors are just kind of there as fodder but it is notable that Chuck Norris provides Lee’s biggest foil (some of the footage was reused for Game of Death in 1978).

way of the dragon chuck norris vs bruce lee

…but Bruce Lee has a few thoughts on this

The Way of the Dragon is loaded with fun fighting.  The movie doesn’t feel as snappy as some of Bruce Lee’s movies but it also is real fledgling attempt as a director.  With a focus on fighting and decent choreography, the movie is still above a lot of movies from this time period simply because of Bruce Lee’s involvement.

The Way of the Dragon is a must for any fan of Bruce Lee since he unfortunately left us with so little work before his untimely death in 1973.  Enjoy the work of an actor who was just rising before being cut down and check out The Way of the Dragon.  Lee followed Way of the Dragon with his final finished work Enter the Dragon in 1973 which ultimately could be argued was his best work.

Related Links:

The Big Boss (1971)

Fist of Fury (1972)

Enter the Dragon (1973)

Dragon:  The Bruce Lee Story (1993)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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