Anthony's Film Review
The Big Boss (1971)
Bruce Lee's first feature-length movie is a promising though underwhelming start...
Before I share my quick review of The Big Boss, I'm going to take a moment to discuss the issue of the movie's title. The Big Boss is the official name of this martial arts movie starring Bruce Lee, as it is the title used in Hong Kong where the film originated. The Big Boss, however, is also widely known in the United States under the title Fists of Fury. The confusion stems from the fact that the next Bruce Lee movie is officially titled Fist of Fury, which, in the U.S., was called The Chinese Connection. Hopefully, if you keep these two original-alternate title pairs in mind, you'll know which film is which.
Anyway, here's what I thought about The Big Boss after seeing it. It's OK, but because I felt it lacked enough strong elements for me to give this movie a slightly positive rating, I have to call it a somewhat mediocre movie. What elements, you may ask, are lacking? Well, the story and characters, which mainly involve Bruce Lee as Cheng who works in an ice factory only to accidentally discover drugs being smuggled, seem minimally developed, or at least not as developed as I would like. Although those elements are present, I was hoping for better writing just so I could at least care about what happens next or what happens to any of the characters.
But what about the action scenes? Sure, there are action scenes, and they're the reason I'm not rating the movie any lower. At the same time, are they enough to make up for the lackluster story and characters? Probably not in this case. It is true that the action scenes start out simple in the first half of the movie and gradually become more brutal and involve more fighters as the film moves along. It's also true that, despite a low budget, the sound effects and quick camera shots enhance the excitement of the action. I guess the reason I wasn't any more impressed was that it all seemed standard. There wasn't anything too unique or surprising.
I'll also say a few things related to the film's overall technical quality. I don't mind low-budget movies with an audio-visual quality that is below average, as long as two things are true. One, the technical quality shouldn't be so terrible that it indicates minimal to no effort on the part of the filmmakers. Two, the basic elements of the movie (that is, story and characters) must be developed well. The first of these two points certainly applies to The Big Boss, but not the second. If I'm going to watch a movie that looks cheaply made, there should be at least something that's engaging enough for me to follow.
With that, I can't give The Big Boss (or Fists of Fury, whichever title you prefer) a positive rating. But because of the fight scenes, I'll give it some credit so that the negative rating isn't a strongly negative one. I'll also give credit to Bruce Lee for his effort, as this was his first major film. Still, this is a movie that may appeal most to Bruce Lee fans who like to study each of his films carefully. For anyone else looking for something that represents Bruce Lee at his best, it might help to skip this film and look elsewhere.
For more information about The Big Boss, visit the Internet Movie Database.