Bruce Lee’s Portrayal in ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ is So Bad Asians Are Pissed
Since its theatrical release on Friday, Quentin Tarantino’s latest movie “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood” has so far received both box office success and critical acclaim.
The film received praise for its setting, casting choices and the solid performances of its main cast, which includes Brad Pitt, Leonardo di Caprio and Margot Robbie.
In many film reviews, critics also took notice of Mike Moh’s performance as the legendary martial arts star Bruce Lee.
But while many were generally impressed by how Moh handled the character, some have expressed criticism on how Tarantino’s script portrayed a beloved Asian American icon.
To make Pitt’s character, Cliff Booth, appear badass in the film, the filmmaker devised a best-of-three-rounds fight scene between the fictional Booth and a cartoony version of Lee.
In the scene, Lee was cocky and ended up challenging Booth to a fight that he eventually lost. The fight scene showed Lee knocking Booth down in the first “round” but Booth was able to beat Lee in the second round by slamming him into a car door. Tarantino has hinted in interviews that by showing Booth get the better of Lee, the scene establishes that the character is not to be stifled with.
One of the more vocal critics of this fictionalized version of Lee, is the martial arts legend’s daughter, Shannon Lee.
Lee, who was not consulted by Tarantino for the film, told The Wrap that the portrayal of her father in the film makes him come across as an “arrogant a******.”
“I can understand all the reasoning behind what is portrayed in the movie. I understand that the two [lead] characters are antiheroes, and this is sort of like a rage fantasy of what would happen … and they’re portraying a period that clearly had a lot of racism and exclusion,”she was quoted as saying. “I understand they want to make the Brad Pitt character this super-badass who could beat up Bruce Lee. But they didn’t need to treat him in the way that white Hollywood did when he was alive.”
Lee also noted that her father was often challenged to fights but always tried to avoid them.
“He [Lee] comes across as an arrogant a****** who was full of hot air,” she said. “And not someone who had to fight triple as hard as any of those people did to accomplish what was naturally given to so many others. Here, he’s the one with all the puffery and he’s the one challenging Brad Pitt. Which is not how he was.”
On Twitter, many pointed out how “disappointing” and “upsetting” to watch Bruce Lee’s legacy tarnished by Tarantino’s caricature portrayal of him.
That scene was garbage & erased @brucelee‘s struggles & legacy as an Asian man in the west / Hollywood, turned him into a joke. Now every1 thinks they could fight Bruce, including all these newbie MMA fans who have no idea they would’ve never existed without him #BruceLee
I’m disappointed, but not surprised by QT’s insensitive portrayal of #BruceLee. I was a fan of his earlier work, but Hateful 8 was the first time I felt the decline. I remember feeling really grossed out by his portrayal of LatinX in that movie. Demián Bichir deserved better! pic.twitter.com/sBi9CfWZm7