The Big Boss ~ 1971, Wei Lo and Chia-Hsiang Wu, Hong Kong
The first thing you need to know about The Big Boss is that it’s basically The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air, but with Kung Fu. Yeah, fucking awesome.
THE PLOT~ Somewhere in China, where Bruce Lee is presumably born and raised, on the playground is where he spends most of his days, chillin’ out, maxin’, realaxin’ all cool, and all practicing to get really good at Kung Fu, when a couple of guys (who were up to no good,) Begin to make trouble in his neighborhood. He gets in one little fight and his mom get’s scared, and says “You’re moving with your uncle to a more rural region of China!”
What’s the difference?!
Rather than shacking up with a Chinese Uncle Phil, Bruce is taken to his new home, a run down flop house full of dudes, all of whom are Bruce’s new pals, and who could be seen as Chinese versions of Jazzy Jeff, Carlton, and whatever their Butler’s name was. Bruce’s new buddies get him a job working at some sort of ice factory, and guess what? The dude who owns it also is a big drug trafficker. This is where the film takes it’s one and only departure from the saga of the Fresh Prince, rather than stay out of trouble, Bruce ends up locked in a brutal kung fu death match with a series of thugs, which culminates with a show down with the Big Boss himself. But other than that it’s straight up Fresh Prince, they just traded the martial arts for sick rhymes.
The Big Boss is not Bruce’s best film, but dammit, it’s a Bruce Lee film. That carries weight, son! It’s highly entertaining, and although Bruce isn’t quite at his peak at this point, there are plenty of little moments nestled throughout the picture that illustrate just why this guy was so special. Naturally, the fighting is first rate, but for me, the stuff I appreciate the most is when Bruce ISN’T shrieking like a puma and kicking people in the throat. His personality shines through in every minute detail of his performance, and this is a man who was inarguably born for motion pictures. These movies aren’t very elaborate when you stick them under the microscope, but they’re rewarding in a way that is hard to pinpoint, and it almost has to be Lee that makes that happen.
Plus, check out the dude in the maroon shirt- it’s Lam Ching-Ying!
So, The Big Boss is a classic on the strength of Lee’s performance, where it may have been a rather forgettable affair without him. We, as a species, owe this man a lot. He did a lot more for humanity than prove that pixie cuts and high-waisted pants are actually super bad ass. The Big Boss may not be his best movie, but it’s still a great contribution to pop culture from a man who had a tragically short resumé, but who still managed to make an enormous impact.