Young Bruce Lee on Blu-ray

Monday, 30 May 2011 10:46

After a couple of films about Bruce Lee’s martial arts mentor (the “Ip Man” duology) and 1993’s noteworthy “Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story” comes “Young Bruce Lee”. This movie covers the period from his birth in 1940’s San Francisco to his hasty departure from Hong Kong back to the United States in 1959. The film concentrates on Bruce’s upbringing in a large family, his burgeoning friendships and girl problems. Having survived the brutal Japanese occupation of Hong Kong during World War 2, life in the Lee household becomes more relaxed and prosperous.

The prepubescent and teen Lee and his mates are constantly getting into trouble for being boisterous kids, despite some strict parenting from his father Chuen (Tony Leung Ka Fai – “The Myth”, “Election”). Bruce follows his father into the world of entertainment as a child actor. Long before his meteoric rise in status later on he becomes a more local, minor star in his own right. Once he reaches young adulthood, the title role thereafter is played by Aarif Rahman, an actor with a reasonable physical semblance to Lee.

Young Bruce Lee on DVD and Blu-rayRahman obviously studied the icon closely as he invokes similar energy and charisma, though he does not quite capture the slightly darker, edgier aspects of Lee’s persona. Late in the film he also proves a good kung fu mimic, emitting the comical chirps and acting out the same physical quirks of Bruce’s fighting style.

Fans expecting plenty of martial arts excitement will be quite disappointed by this release; only the last third of the movie features a series of thrilling combat and action scenes. Prior to that, directors Manfred Wong and Wai Man Yip focus on more sedate matters like family life, friendly dancing competitions and work in 1940s and 1950s Hong Kong cinema. This is hardly surprising as the film is based on a biography by Lee’s younger brother Robert.

Though it takes a while to set the pulse racing, the movie does impress with its attention to detail, and it captures the post-war period pretty well. In terms of the Lee household, over 1000 family photographs were studiously examined to ensure that hair styles, clothes and rooms were closely reproduced. The film is suffused with a grey/sepia tone to invoke a sense of history, and scenes set on the film stages switch to black and white when we see what the movie camera sees. Fans of old-school Oriental movies will probably chuckle when they see the cramped and cheap period film sets.

The movie’s determination to concentrate on Lee’s relationships with his brother Robert, his closest friends such as Kong (Zhang Yishan), and a couple of girls fails to support the film sufficiently before the action finally hots up. The acting is decent and the characters are all charming and often entertaining to watch, but one cannot help wishing that there was a bit more dynamism. At the heart of it the issue is whether fans of Bruce Lee want to witness how relatively normal this film makes him out to be, at least in his formative years? In contrast, “Dragon” covers his story after he arrives back in the States, and does a much better job of illustrating why he is still an icon to so many people.

Special features on both the DVD (reviewed) and Blu-ray releases include twelve deleted scenes, a gallery of fifteen production-diary featurettes and an exclusive 30-minute documentary entitled ‘Memories of the Master’. These are a cut above regular Cine Asia bonus content in that the featurettes have a bit of personality and structure, rather than being raw ‘fly on the wall’ behind-the-scenes clips. The documentary has a nice array of photos of the real Bruce to compliment the thoughts of authorities on him and actors who worked with him. The DVD version has Dolby Digital 2.0 and 5.1 Cantonese audio tracks, whereas the Blu-ray has a higher spec DTS HD 5.1 option.

“Young Bruce Lee” (2010) is out on DVD and Blu-ray now, courtesy of Cine Asia. The main feature has a running time of 115 minutes approx, carries a ‘15’ certificate and retails for £17.99 on DVD, £24.99 on Blu-ray, or less from

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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