Subtitled The Bruce Lee Story, this film from director and co-writer Rob Cohen is a flashy but unilluminating biography of the Hong Kong chop-socky star, who died mysteriously in 1973 at thirty-two before he could finish Game of Death. In a bizarre twist, Lee’s son Brandon, 28, died in a freak accident in March while filming The Crow. Brandon is seen only as a child in Dragon, based on the book by Bruce’s American widow, Linda, who defied her mother to marry him.
Jason Scott Lee (no relation) plays Bruce with souped-up sincerity, but Dragon is selective biography. Perhaps out of deference to Linda, played by Lauren Holly, there’s no mention that Lee’s body was found in another woman’s apartment. Adding to the unreality are scenes showing Lee wrestling in his nightmares with a demon that represents his fears.
Cohen also stages absurdly protracted fights — the attack on Lee by Chinese chefs wielding kitchen knives is an unintentional howl. But Hollywood racism is vividly evoked when Bruce takes Linda to Breakfast at Tiffany’s and watches in pain as the audience roars at Mickey Rooney’s Asian caricature. Dragon errs by trafficking too much in what made Bruce Lee sell instead of what made him tick.