The Big Boss
(a.k.a. Fists of Fury)
(Tang shan da xiong) (1971)
Directed by Wei Lo

Artistic Value: * *
Entertainment Value: * * *

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When Cheng (Bruce Lee) comes to live with his cousins, one of them gets him a job in the ice factory where he and his brothers work. Shortly thereafter, the cousins begin vanishing, and those remaining start to suspect that the owner of the factory may be behind the disappearances. After Cheng has been promoted by his boss to win his cooperation, his remaining cousins disown him. Nevertheless, he continues to investigate his employers and eventually learns that they are operating a drug smuggling ring.

Although visually pedestrian and often poorly acted, The Big Boss is actually an entertaining film. The fight sequences, while not brilliantly handled, are enjoyable, and the characters, while stereotyped, are engaging.


Unlike many Kung Fu movies, The Big Boss actually does have a coherent narrative. The director is consequently able to involve the viewer with the characters so that he sympathizes with and feels concern for them. In fact, much of the film is more concerned with the complications arising from the investigation into the disappearances of Cheng's cousins than with presenting the viewer with a series of action sequences. Only in the second half of the movie are the fights given priority, and even then they are not allowed to push the narrative to the side. Instead, they actually further the story.


Bruce Lee acquits himself well and demonstrates both his skill at martial arts and his talent for performing choreographed fights. While he is not a notable actor, he is not incompetent either and is probably better than are the majority of the other performers in the movie. Some do acquit themselves well, but many are frankly inept.


The Big Boss is hardly a great film, but it is a pleasant diversion.

Review by Keith Allen

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