Enter the Dragon
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that the villain's nefarious activities include peddling heroin and turning drug-addicted women into international sex slaves. The girls are offered to the heroes, and there is brief female nudity in the bedroom, as well as imagery of a drugged-up, hippie-style party. Rampant martial-arts violence ranges from non-lethal bouts to kung-fu fatalities, with snapped necks, crushed bodies, and speared corpses. Watching it on a cropped, full-screen version loses the composition of the action setpieces; try to get a "letterboxed" edition instead.
What's the story?
ENTER THE DRAGON was a breakthrough as a joint U.S.-Hong Kong big-budget martial-arts extravaganza (filmed in English), its repute only enhanced by the sudden death of star Bruce Lee immediately before its release. He plays a peerless master/teacher of personal combat at the Shaolin Temple, approached by an international crime-busting agency to help bring down an elusive crime lord called Han -- himself a Shaolin disciple gone bad. Han runs his drug/prostitution/slavery empire from a private island stronghold where guns are forbidden; instead he recruits world-class martial artists as his guards and enforcers. Lee goes to the island on the pretext of competing in Han's tournaments, but in fact he's to make contact with an agent already there undercover. It's an excuse for the fight scenes at which Bruce Lee and other actor-athletes here excel.
Is it any good?
The plotline is like one of those much-parodied, cheapo James Bond knockoffs (except Lee's character isn't allowed to show any interest in romance), and character development is slight at best. But Bruce Lee's wiry physique, strong presence, and hyperkinetic action-acrobatics have ensured ENTER THE DRAGON a solid place in the hearts of action-fans of all ages, and Lee's long, final duel with Han is a classic.
Even with its silly, dated, and schlocky elements, there's something so straightforward about how Enter the Dragon delivers the goods that it even earned respect from the Western critics who automatically condemned any kung-fu movie as trash (at least before Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon came along). Sadly, we'll never know how much earlier Asian action tales would have been embraced had Lee survived to make bigger and better movies.
Explore, discuss, enjoy
Families can talk about the appeal of Bruce Lee. What makes him special among the big screen's action heroes? How about his philosophy of martial arts briefly expounded in the pre-credit sequence (the distinction of fighting with emotion but avoiding anger)? You can watch documentaries about Lee and kung-fu cinema (two examples: Bruce Lee, the Legend and Chop Socky) and ask why it took so long for such movies to become "respectable" in the West. Was it critical racism, or were kung-fu films just low quality? What kinds of roles do you think Lee would have played had he not died so tragically young?