Enter the Dragon opens by introducing us to Bruce Lee. Lee is a Shaolin monk, of sorts, in Hong Kong. His order uses philosophy to give them greater martial arts ability, and he is the best fighter among them.
After a series of vignettes showing the fighters arriving, we are treated to one of Han’s parties. The fighters are offered food and women. Later that night, Lee begins his investigation. In the meantime, Han kills Kelly because he believes Kelly is spying on him and he offers Saxon a chance to join him. This all leads to a series of showdowns in which Saxon changes sides and helps Lee while Lee is in the fight of his life against Han and his private army.
The Hong Kong film industry has turned out a bazillion martial arts films but few of them have ever reached any level of popularity with general audiences. Enter the Dragon is the notable exception. Enter the Dragon has become a classic. And make no mistake, it is Lee who gives Enter the Dragon its reach with general audiences and its staying power generation after generation.
Indeed, let us be honest: Enter the Dragon is a poorly written, poorly acted, poorly directed mess that would be utter crap if given to another actor other than Lee. The lines are laughable. The dialog is primitive. The martial arts moments are ridiculous; they are the equivalent of wire fighting today. The acting is stiff on the one hand and Captain Kirk over-the-top on the other.
But Kelly and Saxon alone are not enough to elevate this to more than a B movie. That takes Lee. Lee is the reason you watch this film. He is the man who makes it real and makes it interesting. Indeed, stick any other actor in Lee’s role and this film collapses.
He brings personality too. Lee does martial arts tricks with such cool that we believe he can do the impossible. He’s funny too. His humor is subtle, but genuine. It’s also very much “common man” humor like when he asks why someone doesn’t just get a gun and shoot Han. This makes him very relatable.
All of this makes Lee out as a superior being with superior skills, but at the same time someone who strikes us as very much us. In effect, Lee is the person we want to be. That is why we relate to him. And when he tells us this is all real, we believe him in a way we would never believe another actor.
And that is the reason this film is remembered.