This review is of the edited TV-14 version of the film. All thoughts below should be addressed as such as a review of the unedited version would be more negative
Enter The Dragon is a pretty interesting movie. Right away you’ll be reminded of Mortal Kombat as you’re watching through it. From the tournament to the island itself, it just feels like that one although of course the Mortal Kombat original film is a living legend so this one isn’t quite up to par there. This one definitely gets more violent and incorporates a bunch of rather dark elements. It may pale next to MK but it does deliver on some big fights.
The movie starts off with an agent approaching Lee with a mission. He wants Lee to go to a private island and enter a tournament run by the villainous Han. Han is effectively the leader of an underground criminal enterprise. The issue is that there is no proof of him actually doing any wrongdoing. Effectively it’s an open secret but the guy is technically protected. No weapons are allowed on the island either so your best chance is to be a living weapon.
Lee is one of the most powerful fighters in his Dojo and that is why he has been selected. The leader of the dojo also encourages Lee to go because Han was originally trained here and has brought disgrace to them all. Lee is still reluctant but then the agent takes out his trump card. Han is directly responsible for the death of Lee’s sister. Han ordered a few of his men to take her down and this is something Lee did not know about previously. He agrees to go and sets off to murder them all.
Now while this is a tournament film you don’t actually see any big battles for a while. Most of the film is actually for set up as we meet the other fighters. Each fighter has a backstory. You have Roper who loves gambling but is now super in debt. He needs to win this tournament so he gets a lot of cash again. Then you have Williams who got into a lot of trouble back home and this can help him jump start a new identity. They all have reasons for winning but of course Lee’s is the most personal.
It’s not as widespread with characters as Mortal Kombat though as anyone outside of these main 3 are definitely expendable. The movie does make sure to show that they are all quite skilled in their own right although I don’t think there is ever any doubt that Lee would defeat the other two. Lee is very impressive in the battles so it’s worth the wait once you get to that section. He’s also the most likable member of the main 3. He takes the whole situation very seriously.
I wasn’t a big fan of the other two but they’re okay. Roper can fight well too and gets some quality moments. He isn’t as much of an active participant as Lee but he gets the job done when it’s time to move out. Williams also gets a big role and even has a chance to confront Han directly. That may not have been the best move for him but it was a good fight. Ultimately it’s just hard to beat someone who has a robotic part at the ready.
As for Han himself, well he’s your classic evil villain straight up. The guy runs every kind of criminal business imaginable and seems to enjoy his work quite a bit. The guy is also pretty bold to be hosting a tournament every year, he’s basically calling the other countries out by saying that they can’t touch him here. His robotic arm makes for a pretty good weapon in battle. Without it, it’s safe to say that Lee would dispatch him with ease. The guy has to use every trick in the book to even stand a chance here. Otherwise he would not have lasted for most of the film.
You’ve also got his right hand man O’Hara who can fight reasonably well. He had no shot against Lee though, that’s for sure. Especially once Lee knew that this guy was one of the main people responsible for the murder. The villains also had a fairly strong member of the police who is here to destroy anyone that doesn’t live up to Han’s expectations. There’s not a whole lot to him besides being tough though.
As mentioned, the film doesn’t hold back on the violence. Some times it isn’t quite on screen though as you can tell what is happening with the villain finishing someone off but it’s just out of camera. Other times you do see the blows so it depends, but the movie can be quite savage with these beat downs. This is definitely a martial arts film where anything goes which usually doesn’t bode well for the fighters.
The whole flashback with Lee’s sister is also pretty sad since there was really nobody to help her out. No matter how many blows she landed or opponents she knocked down, it felt like she was not making any headway through the mob. It’s good that she wasn’t captured since the film made it clear that this would not be a good fate. We see the villain’s operations as he gives Roper a tour and it’s quite disturbing.
These are all elements I’d rather have been cut from the film. Keep it focused on the fighting and how Han is someone that needs to be taken out. That’s about all you need. The other elements may serve to try and up the stakes but the film gets almost depressingly dark with how much Han has already gotten away with. The death scenes also look and feel extremely painful. It shows why you do not want to be on this island at all. We don’t need to know about people vanishing or turning up in the river the next day. With a villain mastermind you can already deduce that he is not exactly the nicest guy around so a lot of things are happening behind the scenes.
The film is at its best when it is focusing on Lee running around and finding out intel. The film does well as it gets that espionage angle on point. The music is also pretty solid. Quite a few solid tunes can be found here and they have a nice blend of different sounds. As mentioned, the fights are pretty great as well. You can expect some really solid hand to hand action here without a doubt. The writing is on point as well. I’m not sure if there are going to be a lot of lines you’ll remember specifically but they flow well.
Overall, Enter The Dragon is very much like watching another version of Mortal Kombat. Of course I would recommend watching that film instead but if you just want a lot of good fights these are almost as good. A hand to hand fight is always a lot of fun and the final battle here is quite long. Naturally Han has to use more tricks up his sleeve to make this close so expect a lot of trick mirrors. He knows that he needs these in order to keep things interesting but otherwise it would get dicey for him. The movie has too many things holding it back from being higher but if you don’t mind things getting rather dark and gritty then you can expect a solid martial arts title here.