Bruce Lee vs. Gangsters: The Movie?

Lee teams up with kung fu master Wong Jack Man and fights bad guys in the vaguely biographical Birth of the Dragon.

William Bibbianiby William Bibbiani

Biographical films are a big deal in Hollywood. The real-life exploits of famous historical figures and celebrities are the stuff Oscars are made of (just look at Lincoln and Argo). It was only a matter of time before someone tried to turn the life story of Bruce Lee into a movie again, after Rob Cohen's largely unsuccessful Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story in 1993, and the writers of Ali, the critically-acclaimed biopic of Muhammad Ali, sure seem like the folks to do it. But after reading the plot synopsis, we don't think that Birth of the Dragon is headed to the Academy Awards in the near future. Or the distant one.

Yes, Christopher Wilkinson and Stephen Rivele have put together a script for Birth of a Dragon, a biopic of Bruce Lee – the man who popularized martial arts and martial arts cinema in the west and looked damned good doing it – that focuses on a famous duel he had with kung fu master Wong Jack Man in San Francisco in 1965. Rather than leave it there, they've decided that the two martial artists then teamed up and fought gangsters side-by-side. 

As near as we can tell, this… didn't actually happen. On the other hand, Bruce Lee's reputation and on-screen persona seems destined to outlive history itself, and a loving piece of historical fiction that repurposes the "real" Bruce Lee into the "reel" Bruce Lee could have some entertainment value, provided they don't insult their hero's honest legacy or the martial art form to which he dedicated so much of his life. In other words, let's wait and see who they get to direct Birth of the Dragon before we pass judgments. Brett Ratner or Len Wiseman would set off some red flags, but Stephen Chow or Boaz Yakin might be able to pull it off. Maybe.

According to Hollywood Reporter, no director has been attached yet, but Birth of the Dragon is being developed by Groundswell Productions and QED International, the makers of Milk and District 9 respectively, so there's a chance they might want to do it right.

A chance.

William Bibbiani is the editor of CraveOnline's Film Channel, the co-host of The B-Movies Podcast and the co-star of The Trailer Hitch. Follow him on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.