Nearly 40 years after his death and after countless Bruceploitation films in the 70s, a biographical film in the early 90s, two documentaries that were made nearly ten years apart, a biographical TV series, and another biographical film in 2010, it's safe to say that the legacy of Bruce Lee is pretty much covered. Nevertheless a new documentary entitled "I Am Bruce Lee" is upon us with the promise of "never before seen footage" and that it's "the best Bruce Lee documentary ever!" While its "unmissable" content may be up for debate, "I Am Bruce Lee" is an interesting insight into Bruce Lee's life, but features material that can otherwise be found in any other documentary or biographical film based on his life.
The documentary utilizes this rather irritating editing technique where it jumps back and forth between family, friends, trainers, actors, MMA fighters, and boxers talking about how Bruce Lee has affected their lives and footage from Bruce Lee's films, his personal films from backyard training, or family photos. That doesn't sound so bad, but when you have to listen to what sounds like a flat palm slapping the surface of a wet watermelon every few seconds along with Bruce Lee's signature "WAAAAAA!" or "WAAATAAAAA!" then it gets extremely tiresome really quickly.
Some of the people they choose to do interviews with is rather questionable. Hearing from the likes of Linda Lee Cadwell, Shannon Lee, Dan Inosanto, and Diana Lee Inosanto is mandatory because they all knew Bruce so well. Hearing from historians, authors and even UFC president Dana White is also very interesting. White actually comes across as very intelligent and knowledgeable and according to White Bruce Lee is the "father" of UFC. Learning that Ed O'Neill is not only a Bruce Lee enthusiast but also a black belt was a neat fact. While the movie isn't rated, the entire documentary seemed to be more lenient with vulgarity solely for the sake of Mickey Rourke who drops the F-bomb nearly every time he's on screen. Hearing from professional dancer Jose Ruiz III and Black Eyed Peas member Taboo just makes you roll your eyes. Do you really care that Taboo stands a certain way when he sings because of Bruce Lee? Meanwhile Jose's take on Bruce's philosophy and what it means to him is just a joke. Then there's retired UFC fighter Stephen Bonnar who just comes off as this huge meathead whenever he opens his mouth or the current UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones who claims that he's enlightening his opponents whenever he beats the snot out of them. It just seems ridiculous to hear from Manny Pacquiao who likes to comb his hair like Bruce's when we could hear from Jackie Chan, Chuck Norris, John Saxon, Jim Kelly, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, or even Sammo Hung or Donnie Yen and have it actually mean something.
During its 94-minute runtime, "I Am Bruce Lee" covers Bruce's entire life from being raised in Hong Kong to his untimely passing in 1973. What's most interesting is learning that Bruce was a Cha Cha dancing champion, but having everything laid out in front of you (his move to the US when he was 18, the troubles of interracial marriage, his training with Yip Man, his time on "The Green Hornet," developing Jeet Kune Do and its evolution, MMA, recovering from his back injury in 1970, the decision to go back to Hong Kong to get his career in movies running, and his rise in popularity) is always something that's worth watching. The documentary uses a lot of footage from Bruce's lost interview with Pierre Berton in 1971, which is always a great watch. It's also surprising that they go into so much detail about Bruce's death (how he was supposedly poisoned, the aneurysm, the Lee family curse, etc) as they've always seemed to barely brush on the subject in the past. It's also touching to see everyone that was close to Bruce still get choked up and still almost be brought to tears whenever the subject of his passing is brought up.
The rarest aspect of the documentary is seeing Bruce's training videos from his own backyard with the likes of James Coburn, Steve McQueen, Dan Inosanto, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and seeing a young Brandon Lee and Diana Lee Inosanto play in the background. Seeing the footage from his demonstration of his two finger pushup and one-inch punch is also quite a treat, but not exactly rare.
Bring up Bruce Lee and just about everyone respects his work and thinks "Enter the Dragon" is one of the greatest action films of all time or remembers when he was Kato on "The Green Hornet," but the thought process that always seems to come up whenever one of these documentaries is released is just how incredible Bruce's philosophy was. Not only that but it also seems to gain more meaning as time passes. Just think of what this man could've accomplished not only in Hollywood but in the physical world as well if he had lived all this time and been around long enough to see the ripe old age of 72.
There is some enjoyment to be had with "I Am Bruce Lee," but its manic editing style, absurd choice of individuals to be interviewed for the documentary, and a sense of redundancy over the amount of footage and information you've already seen and have knowledge of being used over and over again knocks "I Am Bruce Lee" way over into the completely unnecessary category. "Bruce Lee: A Warrior's Journey" had quality information and all of the footage Bruce shot for "Game of Death" embedded in its core while "How Bruce Lee Changed the World" had a better cast of people being interviewed. It's safe to say that every inch of Bruce Lee's legacy has been covered and "I Am Bruce Lee" is just an excessive amount of icing added to an already well decorated cake.
Special features on the Blu-ray include the 11.5-minute featurette "Backyard Training - Bruce Lee's Personal Films," the 3-minute "Inspiration - Bruce Lee's Global Impact," the nearly 5-minute "Bruce Lee in Action" which covers all of Bruce's films except for "Enter the Dragon," the theatrical trailer for the movie, and "Bruce Lee's Hollywood Audition."