Combustible Celluloid
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With: Bruce Lee, Nora Miao, Riki Hashimoto, Robert Baker, Tien Feng, Paul Wei, Feng Yi, Lo Wei, Wong Chung-shun, Han Ying-chieh, James Tien
Written by: Lo Wei
Directed by: Lo Wei
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 107
Date: 05/01/1973

The Chinese Connection (1972)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Furious Fists

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The Bruce Lee classic The Chinese Connection was originally titled Fist of Fury. But Lee's previous movie, The Big Boss (1971), had already been re-titled Fists of Fury, and so to avoid confusion, the U.S. distributors borrowed an idea from the hit The French Connection.

The main problem with this movie is the horrible dubbing, and even in the 21st century, it's impossible to hope for a Chinese-language, subtitled movie with Lee's own voice intact; apparently, kung-fu movies of this calibre were shot specifically to be dubbed for foreign markets -- much like the Italian Westerns and giallo films -- so no "original" language exists.

But thankfully Bruce Lee is here and he's incredible. Watching him fight is like watching an entire performance. He never sizes up an enemy. He merely beats them, both psychologically and physically. At times, he doesn't even look at his opponents, not because he's avoiding their gaze, but because it sends a message: you aren't even worthy of me. His battle cry sometimes lingers for several moments after the attack, as if he's a howling beast, seamlessly working each separate punch and kick into a big picture seen and understood only by him.

The plot of The Chinese Connection does have some interesting moments. Lee plays Chen Zhen, who returns to his old martial arts school and learns that his master has died, probably the victim of foul play. During the funeral representatives from a Japanese school come to taunt them, but -- due to their master's teachings -- no one engages the bullies. Fortunately Chen does. He goes on a one-man revenge spree, killing enemies and hanging them from lamp-posts. He even disguises himself as an old newspaper vendor and as a goofy telephone repairman in order to get closer to them.

The adorable Nora Miao plays Chen's love interest, but aside from one tender scene together, she doesn't have much to do. Chen's thirst for revenge is much bigger than his thirst for love, I guess. According to some sources, Lee dubbed the voice of Petrov, the hulking Russian bad guy. And writer/director Lo Wei plays the police inspector who is forever trying to catch Chen.

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