Aarif Lee plays Bruce Lee in Bruce Lee, My Brother, a biopic about the kung fu icon’s pre-America years. If you were expecting a kung fu film, you might be a tad disappointed. I can only remember two fight scenes in the entire film, both involving Bruce Lee taking on a western boxer. You have already seen this stuff from the Ip Man films, but it feels more realistic here, and Aarif Lee does an adequate job in mimicking Bruce Lee’s trademark hollering.
I do think that this film is more compelling than the Ip Man films because it does more than build up the rivalry between the Chinese people and the Western people. In this film, Bruce Lee is treated like an actual person. He has feelings, he has motivations, and he makes decisions that affects the course of his life.
Bruce Lee, My Brother opens with Bruce Lee’s birth, and moves slowly but steadily through his childhood. We get to see the things he liked to do as a kid, and the friends he grew up with. Be prepared to feel the wrath of Bruce Lee’s father, portrayed impressively by Tony Leung Ka-fai.
The film started out as a war story, but turned into a romantic drama around the halfway mark. There is a love triangle going on with a young-adult Bruce Lee and his best friend vying for the same woman. It felt very formulaic and cheesy, but I was interested in how this will all turn out since it’s a (supposedly) true story after all.
One problem I had with this film was that it didn’t make use of the Bruce Lee character very much. There was a little something early in the film that alluded to Bruce Lee’s famous nunchucks, but sadly it wasn’t mentioned again. Nevertheless, this film is definitely better shot and better plotted than I expected, complete with nostalgic throwbacks to Hong Kong cinema.
On the whole, Bruce Lee, My Brother can be considered as a mash-up of Ip Man, Batman Begins, Rocky, and High School Musical, but it does have its moments when the sincere respect to Bruce Lee and his legacy shines through. The film will not generate any kind of new-found interest in Bruce Lee like the Ip Man films did for its title character, but Bruce Lee, My Brother was exciting while it lasted.