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Bruce Lee’s potential as an innovative and influential filmmaker is apparent throughout the film. The Colosseum fight, for example, intercuts shots of a kitten toying with a rock, which mirror the dynamic of the duel. Bruce Lee also uses sound creatively, accenting moods and emotions with percussion instruments and uttering his patented battle screams (which have sadly been mimicked ad nauseam, thus cheapening the mythology). Note that the musical cue used when Chuck Norris gives Bruce Lee a thumbs-down at the Colosseum is borrowed from Sergio Leone’s famous Western Once Upon a Time in the West (1969). Way of the Dragon also draws on Lee’s own life for inspiration, including his time spent as a waiter at a Chinese restaurant in Oakland and his teaching a lesson to an American stuntman by knocking him 15 feet backward with one kick. The actor Wu Ngan, who is holding the air shield that Bruce Lee kicks back in the film, was a childhood friend of Bruce Lee’s and a male servant in the Lee household when Bruce Lee was growing up in Hong Kong. The film as a whole also reflects the racism Lee was exposed to while living in Hong Kong and America and working in Hollywood.
For more on the “Little Dragon,” check out our FREE guide—Bruce Lee's Biography and the Birth of Tao of Jeet Kune Do.
Bruce Lee’s fights were symbolic messages that Chinese people inside and outside America did not need to be subservient. They also showed that the little Asian man could stand up to the big powers. It is no wonder people cheered when Bruce Lee beat the cruel Japanese, did in the proud Russian and, in this film, disposed of the arrogant Japanese karate fighter and the silent, sneaky American Kudo Colt (Chuck Norris). It is ironic that none of the white bad guys beaten in any of Bruce Lee’s films were British characters, considering the first brunt of racism Bruce Lee faced was while living in Hong Kong when it was a British colony.