A movie depicting the epic showdown between Bruce Lee, played by Philip Ng, and Chinese martial artist Wong Jack Man, played by Yu Xia, recently made its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Its trailer, which recently dropped via Deadline, is something that one might expect from a Hollywood production: the legendary fight will most likely just be a backdrop of the coming-of-age story of a young white man named Steve McKie played by Billy Magnussen.
Deadline described the setting of the film as, “The fuel for a San Francisco-set coming-of-age story involving a rough and tumble young white man who matches the feuding fighting legends in the brawl as he pursues a Romeo and Juliet romance with a young Chinese immigrant [JingJing Qu] under the control of the Chinese mob.”
Apparently, a standalone retelling of the legendary brawl between Bruce Lee and Wong Jack Man won’t be as compelling if not told in the perspective of a young white hero. In the film, McKie, who symbolizes Steve McQueen, becomes a protégé of Lee and is depicted as the one instrumental in bringing Lee and Wong together. For some reason, Lee is portrayed as a trash-talking, cocky fighter versus the wise and calm philosopher Jack Man.
This largely fictionalized adaptation of the real-life battle of martial arts masters in 1964 was directed by “Adjustment Bureau” writer-director George Nolfi, written by Christopher Wilkinson and Steven J. Rivele and produced by Michael London and Janice Williams of Groundswell. China-based Kylin Pictures financed the project.
Nolfi explained the inclusion of the young Steve McQueen’s character in the story:
“The reality is, Bruce Lee and Wong Jack Man did not know each other for a long period before the fight and they weren’t heavily involved with each other after the fight. From a narrative standpoint, you needed eyes on the story that would allow you to have a run up to the fight and… I don’t want to spoil what happens after the fight… but you needed that to get to our third act.”
The Love Life of an Asian Guy gave his candid thoughts of the movie on Facebook:
“Can someone PLEASE explain to me why Val Kilmer’s afterbirth is the main YT character in this Bruce Lee biopic?!?!
“THIS WHITE CENTERING BULLSHIT NEEDS TO STOP! This is exactly what I was saying about that shitty Tupac and Biggie “investigation” movie!
“WHY WHY WHY do we need to learn about the lives of legendary, iconic, and amazing POC from the perspective of a white narrator? What? You think our faces and stories aren’t relatable enough?
“Why couldn’t you make a movie from the perspective of Dan Inosanto, Bruce Lee’s ACTUAL student of Jeet Kune Do? He’s a REAL Asian-American man who exists, not some imaginary sugar cookie Pillsbury ‘NO, BOY’ that you scribbled on an Arby’s napkin and said, “I like.”
“FUCK this movie. Bruce Lee wouldn’t even rest his tube socks on the straight-to-DVD copy of this epic disaster.”