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  • Warning: Spoilers
    Taking a break from his earlier roles as a Bruce Lee imitator, this vehicle for action star Bruce Li sees the actor entering far murkier depths, in a gritty on-the-street thriller which strives for realism at all points in its depiction of furious fight-to-the-death martial art battles. The film's major strength is in the artistic direction of Gwai Chi-hung, who uses atypical camera angles (before it became popular to do so), hand-held cameras and all manner of stylish effects to give the film a true-to-life realism. This is certainly the most 'real' Li film I've seen, with lots of location work in abandoned buildings, in run-down city streets and in decrepit shopping malls to make it feel like you're there.

    I also liked the plot on this one, which is different and deeper than we can usually expect from these offerings. It involves some innocent guys nicking gold from a criminal gang, then facing them in a serious of showdowns. So far so good, except there are some unusually violent tortures and incidents, like a guy being shot with a harpoon and then getting a pressure hose stuffed into a certain orifice – very unpleasant! Things then take a much darker turn with the introduction of a hired killer, who doesn't think twice about disfiguring women with burning towels and stalking his way mercilessly through the survivors of the initial fishing trip. What follows is plenty of brutal martial arts action, all well choreographed with fluid camera-work and hits and wounds that hurt.

    One of my favourite scenes is the ingenious moment when Li (working as an action director on a movie) is attacked by a false actor, resplendent in white wig and beard, who attempts to cut him to pieces with a huge sword. Sharp weapons are certainly favoured in this film, and the frenetic conclusion sees Li battling imposing assassin Phillip Ko in his own apartment, facing axes, swords, and nasty impaling devices as they fight to the death. Li himself is in great shape and the film never lets up, with about 70% of the run-time devoted to long-running, well thought-out action sequences. Recommended.
  • Bruce Li stars as a kung fu teacher who is hunted by mobsters, when he and his friends discover gold smuggled in from Vietnam by said mobsters. Bruce Li finds himself and his girlfriend a target and through out it becomes obvious that Bruce Li can't trust anyone as everyone seems to be a potential assassin, in what is a downbeat and hands down Bruce Li's best effort. In terms of film-making quality, the level of action choreography and indeed scripting, Iron Dragon is head and shoulders above all other Bruceploitation flicks and the highlight of Bruce Li's career. The martial arts action is well done, the suspense is crafted for maximum impact and this indeed is a great martial arts movie and in its own right a good movie. The bus sequence is in particular, very suspenseful and the climax has a few surprises that one doesn't see coming. Indeed the villains here mean business and Bruce Li isn't imitating Bruce Lee, so much as he is playing a hapless character thrown into a bad situation. Li plays the part charismatically and with a sense of likability and intelligence that makes us care about his character so that we care about what happens to him. Indeed this is on par with a Shaw Brothers kung fu movie and it's well worth seeking out if you can find it.

    * * * out of 4-(Good)
  • Have you seen Bruce Li/Ho Chung Tao in a movie of reasonable calibre? To make an educated guess, I'd say probably not. However, this vehicle is arguably Li's best effort in a tainted career. Ironically, this is one of the only films where he doesn't ape Lee's mannerisms - although this stars Little Dragon Li, it cannot be considered Bruceploitation.

    Li and his friends find a box of gold whilst on a diving adventure, and the events thereafter leaves them fighting for their very survival in this, one of few contemporary films by any of the Bruce Lee imitators.

    Once one recovers from the dubious fashion sense of our leads, and the typically poor dubbing/soundtrack, it is possible to appreciate this effort. A very gritty film, it manages to maintain an extremely heavy (and somewhat bleak) atmosphere right from the off. There is little of the "humour" which plagued late-70's Hong Kong action films, and indeed, the realism (of one torture scene in particular) may well leave the viewer reeling. The fight choreography is good, but the "real-world" nature of the fights leaves very little room for spectacular stuff.

    Overall, this film is a surprisingly enjoyable effort, and a chance to watch Li as his own character, rather than as a plethora of Bruce Lee characteristics.
  • The movie begins with an announcement from the Exposition News Network informing the audience of the Vietnamese refugee ship and the smuggled gold. The concept of smuggled gold still eludes me. If it is your gold then good for you. If it is stolen then bad for you. What is smuggled gold and why is it a bad thing in this movie?

    Bruce Li wants to get married but his girl makes him chose between her and martial arts. I did not expect to see her again after that scene. Hon Kwok-Choi does some scuba diving to get the smuggled gold. Bruce Li prefers the gold be left underwater. Hon Kwok-Choi fools them all and has the gold. The Exposition News Network has another announcement but the story has lost all sense anyway. Worse, at twenty minutes in there is no clear cut villain. Plus there was only one fight. Actually the plot is quite simple and did not require any exposition. The gold belongs to the bad guys and they want it back so Bruce and his gang are in the deep.

    The fights are good enough considering the restraints imposed by the movie. It is contemporary action so the fights have to be street- level real. This makes creativity too much of an effort plus the fights really do not advance the plot at all. The only way to make one fight different than the next is in the choice of weapons and set. The movie is also notable for the fact that Bruce Li does not copy Bruce Lee's moves and sounds as he has done in many previous movies. My copy is a VHS converted to a digital file with the expected poor resolution. It is dubbed in English by the A team of voice over folks and they did a good job.

    I can mildly recommend this movie only for fans of the genre and rate it just average.