Sunday, May 20, 2018

Bruce's Deadly Fingers (1976)

Director: Joseph Kong Hung
Notable Cast: Bruce Le, Michael Chan, Lo Lieh, Nora Miao, Nick Cheung, Yuan Man-Tzu, Chiang Tao, Tong Tin-Hei, Fung Ging-Man, Chiu Chi-Ling, Bolo Yeung
Also Known As: Bruce’s Fingers

The one thing about Bruceploitation films is that either a) you completely buy into the cheesy concept and appreciate them for what they are or b) you don’t. Even as a massive martial arts cinema fan, sometimes the obvious low budget cash ins on Bruce Lee’s fame (and death) feel a tad out of place and occasionally disrespectful. At their worst, this is most definitely the case. At their best though, which is where Bruce’s Deadly Fingers tends to lean towards, it’s fun and exploitative entertainment that knows exactly what it is. In the case of Bruce’s Deadly Fingers, an all-star cast, some outlandish silly sequences, and a lot of tongue in cheek humor is what carries the film to being one of the better ones I have seen in the Bruceploitation movement. It’s still a rather hit or miss product, but for fans of the kung fu sub-genre this latest Blu Ray from VCI for the film is going to be a necessary addition to the martial arts fan’s collection.

As far as a plot, story, or narrative goes, it’s not like Bruce’s Deadly Fingers is going to completely flip your world. Bruce Le plays Bruce Wong who is looking to take his kung fu to the next level by finding and perfecting Bruce Lee’s last kung fu manual called the Finger Book. Of course, things are not easy as a villainous gang leader, played by the always entertaining - even when he’s phoning it in for a lot of these scenes - Lo Lieh, also wants the book and brings his cronies along for the ride.

This is a tried and true formula meant to maximize the entertainment, stack the fight work, and keep the focus on those elements instead of relying on narratives or acting performances to carry the film. Sure, it means that ultimately Bruce’s Deadly Fingers is a rather hollow experience that doesn’t resonate much beyond the abrupt finale, but it also plays up the strengths of this film. Again, this is Bruceploitation so you either buy in or get out. This is a film meant to be entertaining more than anything else, where most of the character interactions are overblown in a tongue-in-cheek manner and the action sequences carry more emotional weight than the half-assed attempts at creating any kind of tension or true character chemistry. Most of the plot progressions are predictable and there are character dynamics that try to create something interesting, but more or less exist to get the film to the next action sequence.

Still, Bruce’s Deadly Fingers is one of the better films in terms of Bruceploitation that I’ve seen because it does try to give itself some narrative structure with its plot and it has the fun idea of having Bruce Le’s character assemble a group of good guys to take out the group of bad guys - with a fun cameo from Bolo Yeung at the end. The action sequences are fun and hammy, allowing Bruce Le to strut his Bruce Lee knock off routine with the utmost of confidence, and the film seemingly knows that it’s all cheesy and plays up some of the humor. A sequence where Bruce Le proves to his master that he learned the deadly finger technique by opening a can of beer (which is used as the menu piece on this latest Blu Ray) is just one example of how the film treats its own material.

For those who are kung fu fanatics or Bruceploitation fans, this new Blu Ray from VCI is a must have for your collection. The picture is phenomenally cleaned up and remastered for 2K from the original 35mm, enough so that you can see when the eyeliner on Bruce Le doesn’t quite match up. It’s that good. Plus the Blu has a handful of other special materials and it features a great reversible cover for the ultimate fans. It’s not very often that a film of this caliber gets such fun treatment and even if you’re remotely interested I sincerely suggest the purchase.

In the end, Bruce’s Deadly Fingers is a mixed effort with plenty of good intention in creating a Bruceploitation that’s very fun and very, very entertaining, but it’s still not a film that I would call “good” because of its problematic writing and underdeveloped characters. As I mentioned in the opening of this review though, either you are invested into the genre or you’re not. If you’re the former, this is a must have, must see kind of film. If you’re the latter, this is still one of the better Bruceploitation films I’ve seen and it still might be worth the gander with the right mindset. For fans of this site, it comes highly recommended.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

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