Even in the narrative, doubling, flashbacks and mistakes commingle as if trying to confuse even the most astute of viewers as to whether the guy they're watching is supposed to be the actual Bruce Lee in flashback, or his character Billy Lo (who alternates between old Lee clips and his back-of-the-head double), or his college student pornography-owning, flaking-out-on-his-training brother Bobby. Whatever the truth, I don't care. The laconic nature of the first half, with its laid-back clip show aimlessness mixed with fights and and family matters leads to a mellow glow that carries through the rest of the film ("Don't worry father, I won't let it bother me") which becomes a fun, ultra-goofy spin on Enter the Dragon's midnight black suit secret agent basement lair skulkfest, i.e. the best part of that film.
But first! Billy learns his friend Chin Lu has been killed! He goes to tell Lu's sister, plunging the movies into the nighttime world of 'the Ginza.' We get a very Japanese rock/pop singer song of the moment (is it Meiko Kaji?) as Lo threads his way through the stock footage streets to find the nightclub where she works. Underdressed waitresses dare to wear bunny ears, and everyone watches glumly from their tables as if it's the 100th take of the night. Even with all that torpor, a fight erupts in her dressing room; someone helpfully kicks out the lightbulb so a double can be used for most of the shots. Our hero goes running through the streets which resemble a kind of sad indoor mall.
Next up, Lee/Lo goes to visit his own sibling, a kid brother named Bobby (Tae-jeong Kim) at college, wasting his time with pornography and non-martial arts studies. We see hands reading an erotic Chinese book then throwing it in the trash. They are Lee's, he is at his kid brother Bobby's apartment or house or garage. He throws all his brother's dirty magazines into the trash basket, and then starts penning a letter :
"Dear Bobby - how are you? I was hoping to see you but you were out; sorry I missed you. I guess I don't have to tell you that to become an expert in kung fu requires more effort."
Lo/Lee leaves him his bro the family's secret boxing manual as if knowing he's about to die. A very Ennio Morricone rip with a blazing brass section and male vocalizing heralds a visit to a fancy pagoda for Lu's funeral, where marital arts trainees in black, like an army of Japanese Lee replacements waiting to go, stand motionless along all the sides of the walkway, in case their needed to jump into action.
The funeral is with Shinto Buddhist touches. Astute viewers realize instantly Lu's not really dead when four muscly guys in white won't let Lo get close enough to view the body. Lo runs into a Japanese guy and we see the swastika (in the right direction) on the casket, realizing in the process that Buddhism is so much more cosmic than Christianity. The art shows a much clearer understanding of universal energy flows, the circular breathing of the monks echoes eternity, and when a helicopter comes to steal the casket the circuit is complete.
Lee/Lo is so adamant at getting a look at the body, he hitches a ride grabbing onto the claws on the the casket, only to drop down and fall to his death from hundreds of feet in the air. And lo, Billy Lo is dead! But also-- the real Bruce Lee is dead!! Now we get Lee's real funeral with overlays of his whole career, from child actor onwards, a whole photo album is overlaid with footage of his funeral ceremony.
Well if you got to go, the best way is to do it while falling off of a coffin claw from three hundred feet. "After you've read this letter, go to Japan," reads dad's letter to young Bobby, "and avenge your brother, Billy."
Bobby visits a wealthy white guy named Lewis (he looks a little like Daniel Day Lewis - coincidence?) who eats raw meat and drinks a red milky pink cocktail for breakfast. ("This is raw venison, and deer's blood!") He gives Bobby a tour of the grounds, interrupting the tour to fight to the death three idiot martial artists who show up at the gate to challenge him. It's funny that Lewis, the only white guy in the whole film, is the worst dubbed, with a voice all halting and unevenly accenting the wrong words, as he shows off his grounds ("I keep a lot of specially trained.... peacocks... over there. They obey my command. It takes a lot of training.") When Sherman makes a signal and a whole flock of peacocks fly out of their aerie, across the vast lawn and right towards the camera! It's just one of the unique sights on hand that you won't find in any other movie. We also see lions just hanging out in the garden; Bobby notes that "they are really big lions. I'm kind of frightened." We get quite a bit of the lion footage; they surround the jeep "their favorite dish is fresh human meat").
Bobby sleeps over at Lewis's estate and is visited first by an under-clothed Anglo lady named Angel (Miranda Austin) who tries to first mate with, and then kill, Bobby. Did Lewis send him or someone else? A guy in a convincing lion suit, acting like a lion (he may or may not be supposed to be an actual lion -we never quite know) comes flying through the window next. Wait was he supposed to be a lion or a guy in a lion suit? We've seen less convincing lion suits that were supposed to be actual lions. It's not Lewis sending these hit women and animals. There's also someone trying to kill Lewis, too: someone wearing a crazy red mask. Lewis may be the guilty one who ordered Billy's death, but Bobby still fights the guy trying to kill him, whom he encounters while they're both skulking around the grounds in the dead of night (Bobby wearing the iconic black catsuit Bruce Lee wore when sneaking around the island at night in Enter the Dragon), leading to a nice day-for-night fight in the garden.
Clues finally lead to the "Tower of Death" but the secret is - the tower is in reverse!! That's not what a tower is called, man! It's called a pit. But there you go. An elevator takes Bobby down down to a trap-rigged lair, a very cool combination of James Bond super villain lair, a 1960s TV Batman cliffhanger death trap and Han's underground opium processing plant in Enter the Dragon. Rivers of red blood (or some kind of red liquid) flank a grey industrial sci-fi room with ridged booby trap-laden hallways. Instead of Dragon's hall of mirrors we get the spinning throw room; an electrified grid of colored lasers fries his stick when he pokes it in, and so he must throw a rope so well it anchors between long boxes of tinsel and wrapping paper! I think (that's what I saw anyway).
Luckily before Bobby can be fried, the bad guy leaps from out of his coffin onto a pedestal where the off switch can be easily accessed. A bit of the theme song from Enter is shoved into the faux-Morricone grandeur, and the film ends on a freeze frame. Blammo! No coffin can hold Lu, I mean Lo! I man LEE!
Deadpan before Death!