The first of Bruce Lee’s collection released in 1971 designed to showcase his martial arts talents for Golden Harvest Films. Bruce had done television and some films when he was younger, but he always had small roles and his skills were more of a gimmick then a showcase moment. Big Boss changed not only Lee’s perceived role in movies, but martial arts image in the eyes of the movie world when Big Boss broke all Hong Kong film records and made Kung Fu Cinema a legitimate genre for the decades to come. This was by no means the first of its kind, but it opened the door for a new cast of fans that would otherwise have not tuned in.
The Big Boss gets right down to business in the opening minutes with thugs attempting to shake down a woman and a young boy selling dumplings. As they rough the boy up Bruc….er, James Tien comes to the rescue. Tien already an established action star in the East played a major role in the first two Lee films and was ready to star in Game of Death prior to Lee’s unfortunate death. Tien was not the only repeat performer in Lee’s films, if you watch closely you will see many familiar faces throughout Bruce’s movies even in the smallest of roles. Was this because Lee liked comfort and familiarity? Or a sign that there was so little talent at the time to add in new faces? No commentary or interview I have ever seen had an answer to this question.
For the first half of the movie we wait and Tien handles all but one brief moment of the action sequences. Bruce’s one early moment not only gives you a glimpse of his festering rage and fury, but it shows Lee’s true acting skills and his comedic talents,something his fans know very well, while the rest of the world misses out. His comedic timing is great and surely would have produced films much like Jackie Chan has given the world in the last few decades that have captured the common movie goer and the action fan all at once.
Set in a poor village, The Big Boss is the most destitute of all Lee’s film settings as he makes the most of the old factory to backdrop the action. The “Bruce Lee camera angles” and panning started as early as Boss and continued right up until his final film. Bruce’s action comes in right around 45 minutes, so if you are just looking for action pop in the DVD there, but you will be missing a great film.
Cheng moves to a small shipping village to leave behind his mainland troubled past. His mother gives him an amulet and makes him promise to avoid fighting. But when the evil corrupt boss at the ice factory starts having co-workers “disappear” to keep his drug shipping business a secret Cheng stands up to the foreman only earning him a promotion and more problems. When loss becomes too much Cheng takes on the entire brood with two fists and some attitude.
The camera work in all of Lee’s films are great and the soundtracks are always spot on and wonderful. The only drawback to the Big Boss is the quality of the film gain, though in recent years they have cleaned it up exceptionally, yet it still does not meet the quality the other films of his legacy have reached with brightness and clarity. The one glowing issue in Lee’s films was always the blood, the quality of which looked like tomato soup concentrate.
There are two mainstream versions of the film available on DVD, the Master Collection set and the Ultimate Collection set, neither contain Enter the Dragon as it’s rights are owned by Warner Bros. The Official Bruce Lee website offers the Ultimate Collection for sale, so it seems that the family is endorsing that as their officially sanctioned product. though through Amazon UK and Ebay there are some import box sets that have other material and bonuses not available on the Ultimate edition. The Master Collection offers a fifth disc that is a can’t miss.
This movie can be summed up in one moment and one sentence. Bruce’s character Cheng is such a bad-ass that he even eats his chips with attitude and purpose on the front lawn of the Big Boss.