Film Review: The Big Boss (1971)

Also known as: Fists of Fury (USA)
Release Date: October 3rd, 1971 (Hong Kong)
Directed by: Lo Wei
Written by: Bruce Lee, Lo Wei
Music by: Wang Fu-ling
Cast: Bruce Lee, Maria Yi, James Tien, Nora Miao

Golden Harvest, 110 Minutes


The Big Boss, mistakenly released as Fists of Fury in the United States, was the first starring vehicle for Bruce Lee. It helped launch him into superstardom and it solidified Hong Kong cinema as a new international force.

In this film, we see Lee’s Cheng Chao-an come to a small village and work at an ice factory with his cousins. We soon find out that the ice factory is a front for drug running. Chao-an’s fiery cousin Hsu Chien (played by James Tien) wants to know what the hell is going on and confronts the big boss. Hsu and some of his friends are murdered after a big kung fu brawl. Things get even more out of hand, which causes Chao-an to break a vow of non-violence and to fight back.

The film is well-paced and the story is actually pretty interesting and well put together, despite it being a fairly mundane situation that any filmgoer has seen play out a hundred times over. Bruce Lee just adds legitimacy to the picture, even if it is really his first. His charm and charisma are hard to deny and they help propel the very basic plot into a film better than it should be.

Unlike other Hong Kong kung fu movies, Bruce Lee doesn’t rely on mystical powers and supernatural stuff, he keeps his films grounded in reality and that realism brings with it a certain kind of grit missing in the genre of the time. The Big Boss feels completely plausible. It is a real and authentic movie and Lee’s portrayal of his philosophy and mastery of his art is genuine.

The Big Boss is a damn good Hong Kong kung fu classic. To be honest, I think I prefer it to Lee’s other films, even the more popular Enter The Dragon.

Rating: 9/10