When Bruce Lee died, the world lost its first (and still the best) Martial Arts film star. But Cantonese cinema wasn’t about to let anything get in the way of the phenomenal global popularity of Kung Fu, not even death, and thus Brucesploitation, a genre of film in which the lead actor’s fleeting resemblance to Lee was accentuated to the nth degree on screen, was born. Bruce’s Deadly Fingers is the first film to feature the genre’s biggest star Bruce Le (that’s Le, not Lee) as the star of the show, and while he’s a pretty charismatic and incredibly capable performer, he’s no Bruce Lee. But folks, that’s kind of the point as he’s not meant to be Bruce Lee. He’s just here to act as vessel to channel the kind of roles that Lee might have gone onto play had he not died and the sort of parts that he played before Hollywood came knocking with Enter the Dragon. And knowing that, and having figured it out, you can relax and enjoy Bruce’s Deadly Fingers for what it is; an entertaining and enjoyable Kung Fu romp that’s high on the action-o-meter and has just enough story to carry the plot from highly choreographed, and visually stunning, fight to fight.
Honestly though, the necessity of an overly complicated story is completely negated by the fact that Bruce’s Deadly Fingers is too cool to bother with the usual rigmarole of character development or a central theme that bleeds into the lives of its players and serves as the fuel that drives the minutia of their lives. Nope, all Bruce’s Deadly Fingers needs is a simple McGuffin, in this case the recently deceased Bruce Lee’s book of Finger Kung Fu, which the bad guys want and the good guys have to stop them getting regardless of personal cost. Incorporating all of Golden Harvests and martial arts most famous tropes, clichés and overused, but beloved, scenarios Bruce’s Deadly Fingers is all about revenge, good triumphing over evil and the restoration of honour and is a seventies delight and period piece par excellence that’s bathed in groovy music, flowery shirts with huge lapels and massive flares.
It revels in its badly dubbed dialogue in which it’s archetypal characters are all brought to life by a series of horribly mismatched voices and delights in focussing on its obligatory training montage and the brief lesson that Le has to be taught by his hideously under-used master in order to confront and eventually defeat the moustache twirling*, Kung Fun obsessed arch villain. And talking about defeating his nemesis, the magnificent climactic showdown, in which said defeating eventually takes place, of Bruce’s Deadly Fingers takes up nearly a third of the films running time, borrows liberally from both The Big Boss and Enter the Dragon and see’s Le and his three allies kick the ever living crap out of just about every hoodlum and gangster in Hong Kong, all of whom have been drafted in as extra muscle to protect the aforementioned Mr Kung Fu. Bruce’s Deadly Fingers doesn’t pretend to try and reinvent the wheel or attempt to be something that it obviously isn’t and as such, is just content to be what it is; a ninety minute celebration of everything that was, and is, wonderful about martial arts cinema and an ode to the incredible life of the man to whom it owes everything. So switch off your brain and lose yourself in a frenzy of swishing velvet suits , terrible haircuts, minimal plot and explosive martial arts action. Don’t focus on the story or you’ll miss all of the Kung Fu glory… Tim Cundle
*At least, he would twirl his moustache if he actually had one. Which he doesn’t.