The Big Brother from Tangshan

The Big Boss is my introduction to the greatest martial artist who ever lived. Thanks to my parents, I’ve known the legend of Bruce Lee my entire life. I just haven’t seen any of his movies until very recently. Although it’s part of the experience, I saw them all with subtitles instead of awkward dubbing. After the cancellation of The Green Hornet, Bruce Lee struggled to find work for years. Despite having to leave his family and work in terrible conditions, filming a low budget movie in Hong Kong was the best decision he could’ve made.

Although confusingly titled Fists of Fury in America, The Big Boss became the most successful Hong Kong production at the time. Bruce Lee is cool because he broke free from Asian stereotypes and delivered intensely complex martial arts heroes. The Big Boss is definitely his most raw and bloody film. The 70’s were rife with R rated exploitation style violence. One scene involving a saw-to-the-head was so gory that it had to be cut. There’s also an expected nude scene involving a prostitute. The Big Boss is probably my third favorite of Bruce Lee’s four completed films.

Lee plays Cheng Chao-an, a big brother visiting his cousins in Thailand. Although I expected more, Cheng doesn’t fight thanks to a promise he made to his mother. When his jade necklace comes off, Bruce Lee lets loose with his signature fast-paced furosity. The Big Boss refers to the owner of his local ice factory who uses the business as a front to smuggle cocaine. When friends & relatives turn up missing, Cheng seeks bloody revenge. Despite the intense nature of his fights, there’s still room for humor like the big boss throwing a birdcage onto a hanger. The Big Boss isn’t flashy, but it is a powerful introduction to a martial arts legend.

1. The Big Boss

Cheng strikes

2 thoughts on “The Big Brother from Tangshan

  1. Bruce Lee was the man!! Sometimes I think he worked out a little too much, but you’ve got to admire his dedication. An interesting story is that Lee wasn’t the lead originally in the film, he was a supporting character. His co-star James Tien was meant to be the hero, but producer Raymond Chow saw something in Lee and ordered some script re-writes which lead to the final product.

    Lee and director/writer Wo Lei didn’t get along at all as Lee objected to many of Lei’s over the top ideas, and because Lee wasn’t a star yet, he couldn’t voice his opinions. In many cases he was right as Kung Fu films for the most part are highly stylized to the point of being fantasy.

    Liked by 1 person

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