It's time for a new generation to discover why Bruce Lee is as relevant today as he ever was…
There is no shortage of Bruce Lee related documentaries and books, for every decade between his death and the onset of DVD there has been at least one decent doc centring on the man and his philosophies, and subsequently many more detailed, film specific presentations on Hong Kong Legends/Cine Asia's excellent DVD and Blu-ray releases. For a man that lived only thirty-two years and completed just four films, surely everything that can be said about his career and private life has been said, so what can Spike TV's new feature length documentary, I Am Bruce Lee, add to the subject?
Not too much, it turns out, but in all fairness that's hardly the point. As with much of modern entertainment I Am Bruce Lee's main focus is repackaging the old in a slick fashion so as to be palatable and informative for a new generation.
The format is a standard one, talking heads cut regularly with extracts from Lee's films and interviews, but alongside the usual film and Lee historians, martial arts practitioners, friends and family we are also introduced to an impressive array celebrity fans as they describe how The Master's films, philosophies and drive have influenced their own work and lives. Huge names such as NBA star, Kobe Bryant, actor/fighters, Mickey Rourke and Gina Carano, writer, Reginald Hudlin, UFC president, Dana White, and musician, Taboo (Black Eyed Peas) share screen time with numerous other sports people and performers to paint a picture for any doubters that not only is Lee's work still relevant in these times of rapid transition, but also still massively influential.
It's not all reverence though, some of the participants (not disrespectfully, it must be noted) challenge what over the years has become a legend and a view of invulnerability, so lines of discussion that include the impossibility of a very small man defeating an equally trained big man, Lee's penchant for taking other's philosophies nearly wholesale and who is actually the spiritual father of MMA, are reasonably analysed from multiple perspectives. Surprisingly Married With Children's Ed O'Neill, the person one would least expect to see in a documentary on such a subject, proves outspoken and knowledgeable during these sections.
It's with these potentially controversial discussions where the seasoned Bruce Lee enthusiasts will find the most interest, giving plenty to chew on while all agreeing on the core of the issues; it doesn't really matter if he created philosophies and styles or found them elsewhere, he was all about distilling both to their most useful, workable elements, and all that besides, it was his films that changed the world, everything else followed.
If not ground-breaking or incredibly informative to long-standing Lee devotees, I Am Bruce Lee is a good looking, entertaining and sometimes touching documentary that can at least be enjoyed by Lee fans both current and potential. Not the last word on the subject by any stretch of the imagination, but worthy enough.
I am Bruce Lee is released to rent and buy on the 23rd July by Freemantle Home Entertainment. RRP: from £13.99
Review by Richard Reynolds