As alternatingly silly and serious as its mix of wisdom and wallops, and even with that blond bro gumming up the works, “Birth” is nevertheless zippy, B-movie entertainment.
Birth of the Dragon is not the Bruce Lee biopic you’ve been waiting for, as strong performances and martial arts action by Philip Ng and Xia Yu are wasted on a movie that had too little faith in the real story.
G. Allen Johnson
San Francisco Chronicle
The problem with Birth of the Dragon, George Nolfi’s largely fictionalized account of a 1964 fight between an Oakland martial arts instructor named Bruce Lee and San Francisco instructor Wong Jack Man is that Lee...is the third-most important character in the film.
The New York Times
Birth of the Dragon is ambitious: it wants to be a character study, an explication of martial arts philosophy and an action picture.... But the film never really gets fully juiced until the climax.
Los Angeles Times
It’s unusual to see a film like this make its nominal hero into a jerk, who learns something essential from his nemesis. True or not, the complex characterization does make for a better story.
The Hollywood Reporter
The fight scenes are indeed the film’s strongest element, even if at times they seem overly choreographed and slightly cheesy.
The Globe and Mail (Toronto)
Xia's humble sifu lends more gravitas than this dreck deserves, and a rousing, improbable finale in which Lee and Man take on the mob together offers some great fight choreography, but it's all too little, too late.
The whole enterprise plays like a throwback, summoning up memories of Lee’s cut-rate/no-script “chop sockey” pictures where the charisma was obvious, the fights epic, the stories an afterthought and the effects wincingly obvious.
The A.V. Club
The aura of cheap-o emptiness is overwhelming: Scenes tend to be visually featureless, composed against strangely empty walls or Vancouver street corners. Even the occasionally decent fight choreography looks unappealing.
A preposterous screenwriting-for-dummies exercise directed with all the flare of a mid-‘90s tourism video.