Monday, September 29, 2008
Challenge of the Tiger
Plot: CIA playboys/agents Bruce and Richard Harrison (the thinking man's white ninja) track down a Mafia gang - apparently consisting of three employees - who have cadged a drug that will render the world infertile (a sort of anti-viagra). After brief match of slow-motion topless tennis, a punch-up with a bull at the bullfights, and a visit to the token martial arts school island where the processing plant for the drug is 'hidden', our heroes beat up all the gangsters and get the drug formula back. Astonishingly, there is a third group involved - Chinese agents Hwang Jang Lee and Bolo Yeung - which immediately means all fanboys must see this.
Dialogue: Jaw-dropping. Harrison is no 'new man', to say the least: in a patio scene, he and Bruce are served tea by a female agent: Bruce: "Smells nice". Richard: "So does she...". Just one lowpoint of scripting, they come so thick and fast it's hard to keep up. "I'll have a Coke" "Sorry we're out of Coke". (pause) "OK, I'll have a beer". One of the oddest parts of the film doesn't involve dialogue: the writer crowbars in an expo at the Macua yacht club, where real-life celebs Jack Klugman (Quincy) and Jane Seymour are swanning around. Bruce actually lines up to shake Quincy's hand!!
Similarity to real Bruce: must try harder. You could easily distinguish between the two due to (a) Le's Johnny Ramone barnet, and (b) the utter facial mismatch. He does a few token Brucie bounce steps between moves, but he may as well be copying Bruce Forsyth. Bruce Le has arguably the best-spelled rip off of Bruce Lee's surname; after all it's missing one out of the two e's. However he loses a point for not rhyming with 'Lee', like 'Bruce Li'.
Fights: Generally pretty disappointing, the 'one v many' stuff is poorly staged and has neither the variety nor technical excellence of, say, Way of the Dragon; nor the imaginative use of the environment that Jackie Chan excels at. Two absurd fights stand out: Bruce's fight againt a bull at the bullfights, where instead of simply making good his escape over the barrier when he has the chance he wrestles the 'bull's' (i.e. model's) horns and then unleashes some sidekicks on our bovine friend. Later Richard Harrison, who has been badly beaten offscreen (probably due to budget cuts) turns up at martial-arts-school-processing-plant-island punch drunk, and proceeds to beat up black-belts with thumps and shin-kicks.
There are, however, three good fights: a sadly short Hwang vs Bolo match, which should have been a highlight but didn't explore "superkicker vs muscle guy". Bruce's final three fights are all one-on-one's and get progressively better until his finale against Hwang, who, as ever is the man to watch. This climaxes in the worst on screen car crash explosion ever, with an impact which would only raise mild glances in a town-centre car park.
Title relevance to plot:Tenuous. There's undoubtedly a Challenge, but it is neither set not undertaken by a Tiger.
Overall: 2 kicks out of 5, some good camp fun and decent fights if you get that far.