WARNING: Minor spoilers pertaining to one scene is below, but then again, if you admire Bruce Lee like I do, it doesn’t matter…
If you watch any one of the nine movies of Quentin Tarantino, you know he is a huge fan of the paradigmatic soul of martial arts — Bruce Lee.
From the signature yellow jump suit in Kill Bill to the latest illustration of having Mike Moh personify him in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, it is evident the gifted director admires “The Dragon” in many ways, mostly through film. However, if you really are a Tarantino fan, you know the man loves toying with reality to resolve his own “What If” fancy, as our own Loretto eloquently penned in the Matrix this week.
Following Tarantino’s most profitable opening weekend ever, it’s possible he answered his own scenario search at his own peril by harming another soul — Shannon Lee, Bruce’s daughter and standard-bearer of his vision under the Tao of Jeet Kune Do.
She was vocal about her approval of Tarantino casting Mike Moh, 5th-dan Black in American Tae Kwon Do and actor known for ‘Steve Cho’ on FOX’s Empire. Shannon knew Mike would give honor to the role of her father.
And then, she–like people who filled 3,700 theaters nationwide this past weekend–watched Tarantino’s reported penultimate film.
Empty Your Cup
In an exclusive report from The Wrap, Shannon Lee was able to uncork her thoughts about the portrayal of her father in the film, which she essentially spewed all that “water” Lee students, admirers, and disciples knew she would.
“I can understand all the reasoning behind what is portrayed in the movie,” she said. “I understand that the two characters are antiheroes and this is sort of like a rage fantasy of what would happen… and they’re portraying a period of time that clearly had a lot of racism and exclusion.”
“Rage fantasy.” As the aforementioned story describes “Alternative history.” Whatever you want to label Tarantino’s vivid imagination, he loves to delve into a type of caricature of what could have happened (and if you saw the movie, you know exactly what that means).
However, if Tarantino wasn’t so stuck ogling at his own ego, he would have known the way he wrote Mike Moh to act was insulting to Lee’s legacy depicting him, as Shannon says, “as an arrogant a$$hole who was full of hot air.”
“I understand they want to make the Brad Pitt character this super bad-ass who could beat up Bruce Lee. But they didn’t need to treat him in the way that white Hollywood did when he was alive.”
A couple of generations have been born and grown in the shadow of Bruce Lee’s films, both from Hong Kong and Hollywood. In the late 1960s, Bruce Lee may not have marched in a riot but he stood tall against the bigotry and prejudicial views against Asians in film as much as any.
To wit, Tarantino–possibly unwittingly–exploited that in a quest to make Brad Pitt a badass that would set up a scene way later in the film. In fantasy or real life, there is no way in hell Brad Pitt’s character does that to Bruce Lee on a Hollywood screening lot. And prior to the ‘Best of 3’ parking lot duel, the Senpai comes across like someone who spoke without thought and acted without recollection. Again, not his style at all.
Self-knowledge involves relationship. To know oneself is to study one self in action with another person. Relationship is a process of self evaluation and self revelation. Relationship is the mirror in which you discover yourself – to be is to be related.
Yeah, that sounds like a back alley thug who would leave the set of The Green Hornet just to stick it to a fabled Hollywood stuntman.
Boards Don’t Hit Back
Yeah, yeah. Again, hell to the naw!
Boards don’t hit back, and no matter the training Brad Pitt gets to prepare for a film, this isn’t happening. Also, Shannon is no 2×4. Take it away, sister. Hit it…
“It was really uncomfortable to sit in the theater and listen to people laugh at my father,” she said.
[Shannon] said that her father was often challenged, and tried to avoid fights. “Here, he’s the one with all the puffery and he’s the one challenging Brad Pitt. Which is not how he was,” she said.
If it was so clear that Bruce Lee was made out to be a parody of himself, why did Mike do it? Easy. Anyone would do exactly what was in the script because it’s a big-budget Hollywood movie. Fortunately, even Shannon understands that.
“I think [Moh] was directed like that to be a caricature,” she said to The Wrap.
Do you spend any time on BruceLee.com? If so, you may have seen this shirt:
— Bruce Lee (@brucelee) September 30, 2017
Of course, that is a sweet photoshopped fantasy. This never happened, but it’s always bantered about on who would win. (Answer: Bruce, no question). That said, you saw the scene in question. Bruce Lee is bad-talking Muhammad Ali saying he would have turn Ali (née Clay) a “cripple.”
In truth, he would have turned his back on that conversation or just sheepishly smirk it away, as he was known to do, which was validate by the man who literally wrote the book on Shannon’s father, Matthew Polly, author of “Bruce Lee: A Life.”
“Bruce revered Cassius Clay (Ali); he never trash-talked him in real life. Bruce never used jumping kicks in an actual fight. And even if he did, there wasn’t a stuntman in Hollywood fast enough to catch his leg and throw him into a car.”
“The full scene with Bruce and Brad Pitt is far different than what was in the trailer. Bruce Lee was often a cocky, strutting, braggart, but Tarantino took those traits and exaggerated them to the point of a ‘SNL’ caricature,” Polly said.
So, there’s that.
In closing, it would have been Cliff Booth made the butt of all this assery. Millions of people who saw this, admittedly, great film knows that. As much as Tarantino loves Bruce, it was clear he doesn’t know him as well as thought.
Just take it from the Master himself. Expression is not always; it’s the knowledge of understanding when not to act.
“To me, the extraordinary aspect of martial arts lies in its simplicity. The easy way is also the right way, and martial arts is nothing at all special; the closer to the true way of martial arts, the less wastage of expression there is.”
To wit, Tarantino should have been like water…and just swirled those thoughts of Bruce Lee down the toilet bowl where it belonged.