The Big Boss is a film that gives meaning to the phrase, “you can always go home.” After co-starring in the television series The Green Hornet, Bruce Lee’s Hollywood experience was not going the way he hoped. Studios were reluctant to cast an Asian actor as a lead in anything. Lee was experiencing financial issues so he returned to Hong Kong where he signed on to film The Big Boss. By returning home, The Big Boss would prove to be the breakthrough Lee had been searching for and would launch him to movie immortality.
One interesting thing about The Big Boss is that while Lee gets top billing, he doesn’t take center stage until the second half. The first half of the film is used as a trial to see who was the more charismatic, Lee or co-star James Tien. The end results of the first half catapult Lee and unleash him. Also of note is how Lee is shown as a sexual being. Almost like Shaft.
I though there were two elements of interest in The Big Boss. One is the focus on Lee as a force to defend the Chinese people against their being taken advantage of, mistreatment and disrespect. The other is how the film steadily builds up the violence in order to fully justify Lee’s character to break his pacifist vows. I wonder is the film trying make that a message? Not necessarily that pacifism is pointless, more so that extremes (whatever they were to Lee’s character) make and break this philosophy.
While entertaining, The Big Boss falters for me with its pacing and length. I think it’s maybe 15 minutes too long. The main conflict in the film is pretty evident and there isn’t too much by way of character development for its low budget leanings. So by that it could have been trimmed a bit.
Still, The Big Boss is a film to be enjoyed and appreciated as being the vehicle that finally allowed Bruce Lee to show the world what he wanted them to see and with it, a superstar was born.