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Plot: Bruce Lee, My Brother is an action-dramatic biopic of the eponymous martial arts legend as told by his younger brother, Robert Lee. It revolves around Bruce Lee’s life as a rebellious adolescent in Hong Kong before he sets off for the USA and conquers the world at the age of 18 with only US$100 in his pocket.
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A movie all Bruce Lee fans must watch.
I watched this movie without reading any reviews and I have not seen any of the movies or TV series made about Bruce Lee. I trust this movie because it’s based on the book written by his own brother who is still living and judged from the title, I thought I will get to see his whole life story; and curious how they will show his last 4 movies that made him a superstar and legend. More curious is who will play Lo Wei, Raymond Chow, Nora Miow, Linda and Ting Pei ? Will his rejection to Shaw Brothers’ offer be shown ? I must admit I am quite disappointed that I will not get to see them but instead it’s mainly focused on his family background, upbringing, his childhood movie days, friends, some romance and finally the 3 major events that brought the movie to a satisfying end; a dance competition, a boxing competition and a climatic event that caused him to leave HK to the States at around the age of 19. Overall I am happy with the movie although there is no big names in the cast but a lot of actors and actresses characters from HK black and white movies of the 50s are shown, obviously to please the elderly fans. It’s a pity they did not show the role of Pak Yin, HK’s most popular actress of that time who acted and danced with Bruce in his last movie before he leaves HK in “The Orphan”. They only showed he was offered that movie. You will enjoy it better if you are familiar with those 50s HK celebrities. They tried to cast them as close as possible to the original people in look and behaviour; that’s why at times we find these acting a little poor or weird, with the exception of the actor playing Bruce. I think we will not get a better one. We don’t know if the last event that caused his father to send him away is true or not but as a movie, it’s simply good although not perfect. If this movie do well in the box office(I think it will), I am sure the producers will make at least 2 sequels; “Bruce Lee in U.S.” and “Bruce Lee, the superstar” which will certainly be more interesting to watch than his childhood days. I look forward to them. So Bruce Lee fans, just go and watch it. I am sure you wish to know about his earlier life.
A Nutshell Review: Bruce Lee, My Brother
Based upon the book Bruce Lee, My Brother by Robert Lee, Bruce’s youngest brother, directors Raymond Yip and Manfred Wong take us on a journey that’s begging to be made about the life and times of the formative, growing up years of Lee Jun Fan / Lee Sai Feng (Phoenix). It doesn’t need to encroach into the territory that Rob Cohen’s Dragon had already touched on, the Hollywood film done some 17 years back with Jason Scott Lee (of no relations) in the leading role that begins from his teenage and adult years in the USA, Jeet Kune Do, Kato, Fist of Fury and all. Instead this film takes a more nostalgic look back from the 40s to 60s Hong Kong, focusing on the somewhat wayward youth and teen actor prior to being “exiled” by his dad to the US for his own protection, and the rest, as they say, is history.
In what would be something like a calling as an actor when his father the opera megastar (Tony Leung Kar Fai) assisted a director friend in need by volunteering his infant son in Golden Gate Girl, Bruce Lee’s film forays was way before the kung fu movies launched him into super-stardom, starring in The Orphan and many others, and through this narrative angle, allowed the filmmakers to pay tribute and homage to famous screen actors who once were and the films they were in, the filmmaking mover and shakers behind them, and a commentary on the state of the industry at that time, with unions and hectic film schedules, actors often handling simultaneous projects that require flitting from one sound stage to another. No effort was spared in the attention to detail in sets and costumes, and I thoroughly enjoyed everything the filmmakers had in pulling out all the stops in recreating the mood, look and feel, plus the wonderful actors taking great pains to bring back the memories of acting veterans.
Acting career aside, Bruce Lee, My Brother also touches upon his family members as well, with scenes involving his siblings and parents, their upbringing and the value system instilled upon them. It shows the affluence of a traditional extended Chinese family living together, and not just under the same roof with kin, but that including the servants and their children too. Glimpses of stepping out of traditional boundaries are shown through his mom, played by Christy Chung in a comeback role, as deliberate attention was paid to her wearing the pants of the household when her husband’s away, taking charge of delicate situations, including cursory mention of her fine family background. It is little nuggets of information like these that make this film a wonderful gem to sit through for trivia.
And of course, no story will be complete without friendship and romance thrown into the mix, especially when dealing with the pains of growing up. A tempestuous youth almost always never shying away from a fight, nevermind his semi-stardom, Bruce Lee is part of a group nicknamed the Kowloon Tigers, and it is this allegiance with his buddies that take centerstage, with a subplot running to the finale, involving loving the same girl as his best friend, and how he puts his loyalty with friends and family above everything else. They hang out mostly at dance parlours, and the hours he puts in explains his nimbleness and gracefulness that we’ll see infused into his fighting prowess, not to mention being crowed a Cha-cha dance champion at one point as well.
The fights are widely touted in the trailer, and here’s where chief credit must go to the filmmakers for conscientiously steering clear of too much Wing Chun, and avoiding the temptation to stage clichéd big battles with the Japanese soldiers or British corrupt police. These have been touched upon too frequently of late, with the two Ip Man films, as well as the Andrew Lau’s tribute to Bruce Lee with his Legend of Chen Zhen. Meeting up with Ip Man himself is probably requisite for this film, but it placed it in proper context that Bruce was most of the time being trained by one of the pupils instead, and we do see some hints of Jeet Kune Do in his fights, which are never deadly, but friendlier in nature meant as a comparison of skills and fighting philosophies.
Bruce Lee, My Brother is a fitting tribute about the early life of Bruce Lee, hitting the mark on famous milestones in his life, and showing his character not as the superstar to be, but the down to earth and fiercely loyal friend, brother and son he was known to all those close to him. Dramatic license is of course heavily used especially when putting in subtle hints throughout the film that references the famous movies that he will make in the future (loved that makeshift nunchak using preserved sausages, as well as the banter with a certain Shek Kin). A definite must watch especially for fans who must stay put during the end credit roll for a photographic comparison of pictures taken in the film with the real thing. A film I enjoyed tremendously and goes into my books as a firm contender for the best this year has to offer!
Original Language zh
Runtime 2 hr 9 min (129 min)
Genre Biography, Drama
Director Manfred Wong, Wai-Man Yip
Writer Manfred Wong (screenplay)
Actors Aarif Rahman, Tony Ka Fai Leung, Christy Chung, Jennifer Tse
Country Hong Kong, China
Awards 1 win & 6 nominations.
Production Company Media Asia Distribution
Sound Mix Dolby Digital
Aspect Ratio 2.35 : 1
Camera Red One Camera, Zeiss and Angenieux Lenses
Laboratory Cine Art Laboratory Ltd., Hong Kong (prints)
Film Length N/A
Negative Format Redcode RAW
Cinematographic Process Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format), Redcode RAW (source format)
Printed Film Format 35 mm (anamorphic)